Safety and OSHA News

Worker awarded $814K for popcorn lung

A Baltimore man has won an $814,500 judgment after he developed popcorn lung from workplace exposure.

A jury had awarded Brian Hallock $5.4 million from Polarome International, a New Jersey chemical manufacturer and distributor. However, a judge reduced the amount because Maryland has a cap on non-economic damages.

Hallock’s lawyer, Kenneth McClain, is challenging the $350,000 cap.

Hallock was exposed to the chemical diacetyl, which adds buttery flavoring to foods, at his job at McCormick & Co. in Hunt Valley, MD. His employer wasn’t named in the lawsuit.

Doctors concluded Hallock had bronchiolitis obliterans, aka popcorn lung, in 2006. Hallock is in his 50s and has severely depleted lung capacity and plans to retire within five years.

Symptoms of popcorn lung include persistent dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath during exertion and fixed airway obstruction. It can lead to death and often requires a lung transplant.

The disease is often mistaken for asthma. Medical experts for Polarome tried to argue that Hallock had asthma, not popcorn lung.

Previous popcorn lung lawsuits have resulted in verdicts and settlements of up to $30 million. McClain has been involved in many of the lawsuits.

There are no federal regulations on diacetyl, but OSHA has instituted a National Emphasis Program to target food processing facilities where the substance and its substitutes are used.

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