Readers in Billings may have been surprised by some of the many products on the market that pose an unexpected risk of injury, including magnetic desk toys, poorly constructed grill brushes and a popular baby seat. As surprising as those threats may be, a jury recently handed out more than $7 million dollars in damages in what may be the most shocking product liability lawsuit to date.

After a nine day trial, a jury took only one day to decide that a negligent manufacturer and was liable for failing to warn consumers about the dangers of the chemical used to add butter flavoring to microwave popcorn. The butter-flavored compound, known as diacetyl, has been linked to an irreversible obstructive lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit was the first to be diagnosed with the harmful side effects of diacetyl, but only the most recent verdict in a string of cases spanning some 15 years that have linked diacetyl to health problems. In this case, the jury connected the man’s lung disease to his past habit of eating microwave popcorn on a daily basis. Other cases since 2004 have focused on the same lung condition arising among workers in popcorn and flavoring manufacturing industries.

More cases addressing the incurable condition known as “Popcorn Lung” are underway across the country but, thanks to insufficient warnings on microwave popcorn packaging, there may still be an untold number of Americans who suffer this condition without recognizing its cause.

These disturbing cases demonstrate that a dangerous product can sometimes be found in the least likely of places. Montana residents who have suffered injuries at the hands of a negligent manufacturer should be aware that they may be entitled to compensation under the law.

Source: Reuters, “Colorado man awarded $7.2 million in ‘popcorn lung’ lawsuit” Robert Boczkiewicz, Sept. 20, 2012