Colorado Man Wins $7 Million in ‘Popcorn Lung’ Lawsuit

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Popcorn enthusiast Wayne Watson is living proof that eating two bags of popcorn a day isn’t just bad for the heart. It’s murder on your lungs, too.

The suburban Denver resident has been awarded $7.2 million after successfully suing Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc. for respiratory damage from inadvertently inhaling excessive amounts of microwave popcorn’s artificial butter smell.

(MORE: Top 10 Outrageous Legal Battles)

Watson has “microwave popcorn lung” — we kid you not — a disease first reported among popcorn factory workers. He is the first non-worker to report such symptoms, though his former two-bag-a-day habit puts him at a similar level of exposure. Watson has not eaten a bag of popcorn since 2007.

Apparently, the buttery fumes contain dicetyl, a chemical that can damage the lungs. Watson claimed that the popcorn bags carried no warning of such a side effect. (Dicetyl is no longer added to popcorn butter.)

Defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully that Watson’s years working with carpet cleaners had caused his respiratory issues, which were diagnosed in 2007, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.

Lawyers for grocery chain Kroger were incredulous of Watson’s claims; one told Denver’s CBS4 that he “might as well have warned that there are aliens popping out of the bags because there’s just as much support for that.”

For its part, Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. released a statement.

“Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. has manufactured and provided safe, quality microwave popcorn to consumers for over two decades. We are certainly very disappointed by the decision of the jury in this case in light of the very clear evidence which was presented, including the millions of consumers who have safely used and enjoyed microwave popcorn since it was introduced. We are currently evaluating our next steps in this matter and will assert all rights available to us under the law.”

The real tragedy is that the Stella Awards are no longer handed out–Watson could have tucked another win under his belt.

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