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Archive for Thursday, June 3, 2004

Third trial set this month in popcorn flavoring lawsuits

June 3, 2004

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— The third trial involving claims that butter flavoring used at a popcorn factory caused disabling lung injuries to workers is scheduled to begin later this month.

The lawsuits of four former employees, and a spouse of one of the employees, have been combined for a trial that is scheduled to begin June 14.

In March, jurors in the first trial awarded $18 million in damages to Eric Peoples, 32, of Carthage, and $2 million to his wife, Cassandra. In April, minutes before another jury was to announce its verdict in the case brought by Linda Redman, 55, attorneys announced a confidential settlement.

In all, 30 people who worked at the plant in Jasper filed suit over the flavoring used there, with 28 of the lawsuits still pending. The defendants are flavoring makers International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. and its subsidiary, Bush Boake Allen Inc.

Glister Mary-Lee Corp., which bought the popcorn factory in 1999, is not a defendant.

Ken McClain, an attorney for the workers, said Tuesday that he and representatives of International Flavors were continuing to discuss the possibility of settling the remaining cases.

"We settled Linda's, and should someone want to settle, we would certainly entertain an offer," McClain said.

The Peoples case was the first to be tried because he was considered the sickest of the plaintiffs. According to testimony, he will eventually need a double-lung transplant.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits contend that the flavoring manufacturers were aware of the potential risk associated with the product, which contains the chemical diacetyl, but did not give adequate warning to those who bought it.

The defendants counter that they were unaware of the dangers and presented evidence at the two trials suggesting there is not enough evidence to prove that their product causes the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits scheduled for trial this month are Evelyn Standhart, Marge Unruh, Velma Ingalls and Dusin and Cally Smith. Another case, brought by Louis and Ronetta Pennell, is scheduled for trial starting July 13 in Joplin.

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