59-year-old Wayne Watson of Centennial, Colorado, was awarded $7 million (€5,4 million), as his trial against supermarket chain and popcorn manufacturer King Soopers came to an end.
Mr. Watson's claim was that eating microwave popcorn produced by King Soopers had led him to develop chronic respiratory problems, which the press has been calling “popcorn lung,” the Daily Mail
He was first diagnosed with lung problems in 2007 and, after discussing them with his doctor, he came to the conclusion that his 3-pack-a-day popcorn habit was what was killing him. Mr. Watson had been inhaling hazardous vapors from the butter flavoring, diacetyl, for years, and never knew it was dangerous until his doctor advised him to stop eating it.
“Who would ever reasonably think that popping popcorn in your own home, no matter how its packaged or processed would all of a sudden turn into an agent for toxic lung disease,” the plaintiff stated.
Dr. Ceclie Rose at the National Jewish Hospital in Centennial, Colorado, served as a key witness in Mr. Watson's trial. She introduced the concept of popcorn vapor lung-poisoning to him.
“(I asked) was he exposed to or was he around a lot of popcorn? And his jaw dropped and he asked me how I would possibly know that about him,” Dr. Ceclie Rose said to CBS
When the trial started, in 2010, Watson argued that the company should have warned consumers about the dangers of inhaling diacetyl, by printing a health message on the label.
King Soopers deemed his claim ridiculous.
“[We] might have well have warned that there are aliens popping out of the bags because there’s just as much support for that,” supermarket defendants argued at the time.
The company tried to blame his lung condition on years of selling carpet cleaning fluid, but couldn't substantiate the claim.
In the end, Mr. Watson proved that chemicals contained in the microwaveable popcorn bags were, in fact, a health hazard and King Soopers were aware that the product was unsafe, but had decided to do nothing to warn consumers.