Deborah Daughetee consumed multiple bags of microwave popcorn daily for approximately 5 years. Deborah recalled eating more than 10 different brands of buttered popcorn. After removing a bag of butter flavored microwave popcorn from the microwave, Deborah would open the bag and draw the buttery smell into her nose and lungs. She testified that she “liked the smell of opening a bag near my face.” Diacetyl is a food chemical that is an ingredient used to produce the “buttery” taste and smell of buttered microwave popcorn. Chr. Hansen, Inc., Symrise, Inc., and Firmenich, Inc. (defendants) are corporations that produce butter flavoring that contains diacetyl. Defendants sold their butter flavoring to microwave popcorn manufacturers who produced the various brands of buttered popcorn eaten by Deborah. On opening a microwave popcorn bag with butter flavoring, diacetyl vapors are released. After several industry studies found that extended exposure to diacetyl vapors could cause lung disease, many popcorn manufacturers adopted a number of safety precautions in their microwave popcorn plants to protect workers from overexposure to butter flavoring vapors. However, the popcorn makers made no changes to their products’ packaging. Deborah sued the defendants claiming that she had developed respiratory injury— known as popcorn lung— by smelling the microwave popcorn that contained the buttered flavoring made by the defendants. The defendant corporations made motions for summary judgment. Should the defendants’ motions for summary judgment be granted? Daughetee v. Chr. Hansen, Inc., 2013 U. S. Dist. Lexis 50804 (2013) (United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, 2013)
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