Popcorn Lawsuit Settled

Popped microwave popcorn poured out of bag
A butter flavoring manufacturer ordered to pay $20 million to a couple has settled with them out of court, ending the company's appeal of the damage award for lung disease the couple blamed on a chemical in the flavoring product.

Terms of the settlement with Eric and Cassandra Peoples were confidential. The couple reached a deal with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and its subsidiary Bush Boake Allen Inc., according to an order filed Monday with the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Eric Peoples, 34, was among 30 current or former workers at a Jasper popcorn plant who sued the companies in Jasper County Circuit Court, claiming they suffered lung damage because they breathed fumes from the butter flavoring used to make microwave popcorn.

Jasper Popcorn Co. and Glister-Mary Lee Corp., which bought the popcorn factory in 1999, were not defendants in the lawsuits.

The plaintiffs alleged the manufacturers should have known the chemical diacetyl was hazardous. They also claimed the manufacturers failed to inform employees of dangers posed by the chemical.

Most of those workers' cases were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, as were 13 more workers' cases that were transferred to a federal court.

In March 2004, Peoples and his wife won the largest verdict awarded any of the workers. Two other workers won $15 million verdicts, and a fourth worker and his wife won a $2.75 million verdict.

The companies appealed all those verdicts. The Peoples' case was the first of the appeals to be settled out of court. The other three verdicts are still being appealed.