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.
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