Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Third Popcorn Lung Trial Ends In Victory For Worker

For the second time, a jury has found in favor of the victims of "popcorn lung."

A Jasper County jury on Friday de-livered a $15 million verdict in favor of a former Jasper Popcorn Co. plant maintenance man and his wife in their lawsuit against the makers of a butter flavoring used at the plant.

The jury deliberated one hour and 35 minutes before returning the verdict that awarded Richard "Hank" Brand $12 million and his wife, Lana Brand, $3 million at the conclusion of a two-week trial in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The Brands, who live at 20116 County Road 160 in Jasper County, were seeking redress from International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and Bush Boake Allen Inc. for injury to Hank Brand's health suffered during 17 years of work at the plant in Jasper.

Their lawsuit claimed that Hank Brand, 50, contracted bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare lung disease, as a consequence of breathing fumes of a butter flavoring manufactured by the defendants.
The workers had charged that International Flavors and Fragrances and Bush Boake Allen, the manufacturers of diacetyl (the ingredient that gave the popcorn a buttery flavor) knew their butter flavoring was hazardous, but failed to warn the workers at the plant where the chemical was used of the dangers or provide adequate safety instructions.

Lawyers introduced testimony that tests done as far back as 1993 showed that diacetyl could cause severe lung damage and that workers at the factory that made the chemical wore respirators. The Material Safety Data Sheet given to the popcorn factory, however, contained the phrases "no known health hazards" and "respiratory protection is not normally required."

Last March, a jury awarded Eric Peoples, another worker at the factory, $20 million for the damage caused to his lungs. In another trial, the jury found against four workers in a combined trial last year, but that verdict was overturned when it was learned that a juror had failed to disclose relevant information during jury selection. Three other trials ended in settlements before the jury verdict.

Previous Popcorn Lung stories here.