Safety and OSHA News

Jury awards $30.4 million in worker’s popcorn lung lawsuit

A jury in Chicago has awarded the largest individual verdict in a popcorn lung disease case.

The jury awarded $30.4 million to Gerardo Solis who worked in plants that processed diacetyl, a butter flavoring, for about 20 years. The verdict was against diacetyl supplier BASF Corp.

The jurors assessed compensatory damages of $32 million but subtracted 5% ($1.6 million) for his portion of fault because he continued to work in butter flavoring plants after his first breathing symptoms appeared.

Doctors diagnosed Solis with bronchiolitis obliterans, an incurable lung disease. He currently has only 25% normal lung capacity and will probably need a lung transplant.

According to Lawyers USA Online, Solis filed suit against more than a dozen companies, including the factories where he worked and the suppliers of the chemicals used to make the butter flavoring.

He settled with all the companies except BASF. Solis’ lawyer says BASF offered a $350,000 settlement which was rejected.

Solis’ attorney said a key piece of evidence was a study conducted by BASF’s parent company back in 1993 that showed rats exposed to diacetyl developed severe lung disease.

BASF says it will appeal the verdict.

OSHA is developing regulations on diacetyl and other flood flavorings.

What do you think about the jury’s verdict? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. KissieKat says:

    Award was to far over the top! People ask why insurance is so high…. it’s greed such as Gerardo Solis… oh, I forgot, his portion of “FAULT” was 5% for continuing to work in the same industry. He also filed suit against over a DOZEN other copanies, I certainly hope he did not win them all… he shouldn’t have won any of them.

  2. sheralroh says:

    That’s a little harsh. While I do think he deserves some kind of a settlement, I think $30 Million is very much over the top. I think they should have done the calculation as to what he would have earned during his lifetime, based on his family genetics, added in some pain and suffering and called it good. I think no more than $5 million. Let’s also look at why he kept working once he developed some respiratory problems. First, you don’t just quit your job, especially in this economy, because you are wheezing or coughing… Second, perhaps it took a while for the diagnosis confirming what it actually was. Third, if the company had test results that showed rats/mice developed lung disease, it was the company’s responsibility to make the work environment safe.

  3. I feel Solis should be compensated for his injuries however the amount he was awarded was out of line. He continued to work in the same environment that caused his injury. How is a company liable for his stupidity? and who said he is only 5% stupid? I would say it is closer to 90% stupid. Also the judge that gave him the award should be disbarred. I feel you should have some common sense if you are to be in the position of making these kinds of judgements and this judge apparantly does not.

  4. If they knew there was a problem, they should have investigated this further. I agree with Scott, settlement was to much, if they knew about the problem the company should pay for a lung transplant, his time off work, and maybe two years salary for pain and suffering…

    Trial lawyers and wimpy judges are the reason health care cost are so high along with the cost of products we all buy.

  5. Sure there are law suits where compensation should be granted (not the McDonalds/coffee woman), but the number of frivalous lawsuits that judges let into the court room is staggering. Case in point, a friend of mine was an attorney for a farm implement company. A farmer disconnected the safety switch on his seat on his combine, he was working on the auger and he lost his arm. Lawsuit took place in the county which he resided in, he was awarded $10 million, the company appealed and won. Good and bad, all the large companies in this country have to have all these lawyers are retainer to fight the B.S. lawsuit which does nothing more than drive up the cost of the products.

  6. Perhaps a small settlement would have been justified, but this one is ridiculous. It’s no wonder we’re all going broke (except for the lawyers, of course).

  7. Ridiculous! Only in Chicago, would a jury of idiots award this over-the-top amount of money to the Dumbo, who continued to work in these conditions. EXACTLY the reason we have to pay so much for insurance. Our whole legal system should be revamped. This is a horrible story. Tell Gerardo to go back to Poland if he doesn’t like it.

  8. He may have deserved some kind of compensation, but I have to agree that 30 million is way to much money.
    There needs to be some common sense with these suits. Perhaps they could have settled by figuring how many years he would be able to work, plus add some money for doctor’s visits and needed medicaiton, etc, then a reasonable retirement, but certainly not 30 million.

  9. Alecfinn says:

    OMG has anyone ever lived with someone who has 25% breathing capacity? I have and even with the oxygen turned up full they are mostly helpless.
    The man worked in only one industry and probably had a family to support look at the miners that dies of black lung…..They knew what was happening but continued to work they had responsibilities and they tried to fulfill them.
    Has anyone here seen how painful it is when you have only 25% of your lungs in-operation? How debilitating it is the person suffering from the disorder to the family not to mention possible exposure of family members to this chemical that may have come home on his clothes.
    Ask this man and his family would he rather have the 30 million or good health, I have a disability from work believe me I would rather have my health back….there is no amount of money that makes life easier or less painful when you are disabled.
    The company knew about the exposure of the rats it needs to own up to what it has allowed to occur…Or am I wrong that if any of the folk posting here had this happen they would feel the same? I think given what we have read he got some of what he is entitled to.

  10. Diacetyl lawsuits now include other flavoring company workers as more is learned about exposure to this toxic chemical and the risk of developing this serious lung disease known as “popcorn lung”. The other industries included can be found here: diacetyl


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