A Sioux City man who suffered from “popcorn lung” was awarded $7.5 million by a federal jury, but he didn’t get to hear the jury announce its verdict. Ronald Kuiper, 69, died of lung and heart failure one day before the verdict. A complication related to a condition linked to his work with an artificial flavoring as a butter-flavor mixer caused his death. Jurors ended six days of deliberations in the closely-watched product safety case. Mr. Kuiper was being treated at a local hospital and had less than 30% breathing capacity at the time of his death.
Mr. Kuiper had been relegated to using a scooter to move, but was showing signs of improvement before he died. The jury verdict was against Givaudan Flavors Corp. of Cincinnati, a Defendant in the case, along with three other companies that made popcorn flavoring used at the American Pop Corn Co. Mr. Kuiper had been a butter-flavor mixer in the 1990s at the company’s facility. The other companies settled with the employee before trial. The flavoring contained diacetyl and the employee developed “popcorn lung.” He was diagnosed with the disease in 2006 after working at American Pop Corn Co. for 26 years.
The claims against the other companies named in the lawsuit – International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. of New York, Flavors of North America Inc. of Carol Stream, Ill., and Sensient Flavors Inc. of Indianapolis – were settled prior to the trial. Mr. Kuiper had appeared in the trial briefly to testify, but was excused from further attendance because of his medical condition. Kenneth McClain, the lawyer who represented the victim, observed:
It was really unfortunate that he was not able to see the verdict. This was a needless tragedy that could and should have been prevented. We hope that the end result of these cases is a focus on food safety in America. Mr. Kuiper was a very solid citizen and a hard worker who worked to support his family his whole life.
Five similar cases in Iowa are set for trial in July, and more than 300 other cases are pending nationwide. Verdicts as high as $20 million have been awarded in other cases. It was too bad that the Labor Department had not taken the action referred to above. Hopefully, tragic endings like this one won’t be repeated in the future.
Source: Des Moines Register
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