When juries are willing to demand that companies hand out millions of dollars on cases where there is absolutely, unconditionally zero proof that they did anything wrong, do we have a justice system or a lottery?
A verdict has been reached in the ongoing case of Colorado man Wayne Watson, who sued the manufacturer and retailers of microwave buttered popcorn that caused him to develop “popcorn lung” after eating two bags daily for 10 years.
Jurors awarded Watson $7 million in damages; the verdict came after a day and half of deliberations in Denver Federal Court, reports CBS Denver. Watson, 59, was diagnosed with respiratory problems in 2007 after years of inhaling the smell of artificial butter.
…Gilster-Mary Lee said in a statement after the verdict, “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.”
The disease in question here is called Bronchiolitis obliterans. It is rare and there have been a few cases caused by workers inhaling diacetyl in a popcorn plant. However, that shouldn’t be enough to award someone 7.2 million dollars.
For one thing, the workers in a popcorn plant would have been exposed to vast amounts of diacetyl compared to someone who was just eating popcorn twice a day — if that’s even true. It’s entirely possible that Wayne Watson just made that up to try to get paid after he was diagnosed with Bronchiolitis obliterans. Sure, the condition may be rare, but it’s not UNIQUE to people who’ve been around diacetyl. Moreover, it’s one thing if you have multiple people in a plant who get sick with a rare disease. That kind of cluster clues you in that something is definitely going on. On the other hand, there have been tens of millions of other people who’ve eaten microwave popcorn over the same timeframe as Watson without developing Bronchiolitis obliterans.
I’m genuinely sorry that Wayne Watson is sick, but giving him $7.2 million that belongs to somebody else because he had a bad break isn’t the way our justice system should work. When justice becomes about emotion, not the law, it’s not justice any more.