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"Popcorn Lung" Product Liability Dispute

David and Barbara Stults v. International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and Bush Boake Allen, Inc.

Date: March 2011
Party represented: International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and Bush Boake Allen, Inc.
Venue: U.S District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division
State: Iowa
Length of trial: 7 days

Type of case

Product Liability 

Verdict/award

Defense verdict - Confirmed by US Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit 

In 2011, WWHGD was hired to represent a large flavoring manufacturer in hundreds of cases involving allegations that its butter flavoring, some of which contained the compound diacetyl, caused employees of food manufacturers and some consumers to develop bronchiolitis obliterans, also referred to as "popcorn lung." This particular case, styled, Stults v. International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., involved allegations that a consumer of microwave popcorn developed bronchiolitis obliterans as a result of inhaling fumes from butter-flavored microwave popcorn up to three times a day for approximately 20 years. The plaintiff had a confirmed diagnosis of lung disease.

Plaintiffs brought a claim of breach of implied warranty against WWHGD's client, and requested approximately $27 million in compensatory damages. Numerous other defendants settled prior to trial. WWHGD and its client received a defense verdict after seven days of trial in Sioux City, Iowa.

Plaintiffs appealed the verdict to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that they were entitled to a new trial based upon, in part, evidentiary rulings regarding expert witness testimony. After extensive briefing and oral argument, completed by appellate counsel from Clausen Miller in conjunction with WWHGD, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the defense verdict.

In 2012, a federal court jury in Denver, Colorado found for a plaintiff and against a private label food manufacturer in the amount of approximately $7.2 million in a similar case. That plaintiff also claimed that he developed bronchiolitis obliterans as a result of the inhalation of vapors emitted from microwave popcorn, and was featured on a number of national television programs, including the ABC program "Good Morning America."

On March 4, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a defense verdict obtained by WWHGD attorneys Earl "Billy" Gunn, M. Alan Holcomb, Richard H. Hill, III, David Matthews, and Bob Marcovitch in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in a landmark product liability case involving allegations that exposure to chemicals found in butter flavoring caused a consumer of microwave popcorn to develop a severe and irreversible lung disease.

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