Friday, September 21, 2012

$7.2-Million for Popcorn Lung?

Where could your next lawsuit come from?

Whether you make a product or provide a service, and you do that in the good old United States, there's someone out there trying to figure out how to make money the old fashion way -- by suing you.

This past week a federal court awarded a Denver man a $7.2-million settlement in a lawsuit alleging a microwave popcorn company and a division of Kroger Supermarkets  sold him popcorn that made him sick.

ABC news reported Wayne Watson claimed to suffer from "popcorn lung" after eating two bags of microwave popcorn every day for ten years.  Watson told reporters he might look like a fairly healthy man, but ". . . on a good day" I only have "about 53-percent lung capacity."

The maker of the popcorn, Glister-Mary Lee and Kroger say they will appeal. Watson was a furniture salesman and the defendants argued his work with carpet cleaning chemicals caused his illness.

The issue is really about DIACETYL, a chemical used to give popcorn its butter flavoring without using any dairy products at all.  Until recently, "popcorn lung" disease was only found in plant workers who worked with the chemical flavoring.  Popcorn plant unions have been trying to get the chemical banned for years and regulators have never decided on how much exposure is unsafe.

You don't have to package or sell popcorn to become the target of plaintiff's attorneys.

Every business, in fact every organization, should always be evaluating their risks and then striving to minimize those risks -- whether you make a product that has potentially dangerous chemicals in it, or a design that could contribute to the death of an infant, or put others at risk by unscreened predators that work for you -- think Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, a neighborhood nursery school, a discount store that sells baby cribs, infant car seats or toys that can come apart and choke a child.

When you quit looking for risks and where the next problem might come from, you might as well call your lawyer and put him/her on retainer.

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