Wayne Watson 'popcorn lung' lawsuit: Centennial man wins $7 million in suit over artificial butter

Watson lost 50 percent of lung capacity

DENVER -- A Centennial man who was diagnosed with "popcorn lung," possibly from inhaling the artificial butter smell of the microwave popcorn he regularly ate, has won a $7.2 million verdict against various food companies.

Wayne Watson's attorney, Ken McClain, said a federal jury granted the award Wednesday against Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc. after he developed respiratory problems in 2007.

"I've lost about 50 percent of my lung capacity," Watson told 7NEWS.

Watson previously settled claims against the flavor developer FONA International Inc., formerly Flavors of North America Inc.

Watson argued the companies failed to warn consumers that inhaling the buttery aroma could put them at risk of lung injury.

"It's the truth.  And that's why we won this case.  Because the truth was on our side," said Watson.

Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation  issued the following statement after the verdict:

"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."

Defense attorneys had argued Watson's health problems stemmed not from popcorn but from his years of working with carpet-cleaning chemicals.

"I think that ,unfortunately, is the history of our country.  That large verdicts that tend to get companies to do what's right," said McClain.

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