May 07, 2004

Popcorn butter and workers' comp

Here in Missouri we recently had a widely publicized $20 million verdict against flavoring manufacturers to the first of thirty injured workers at a popcorn plant who breathed in butter flavor vapor, causing a nasty and seemingly permanent lung illness (see AP/Albuquerque Tribune, Mar. 16). Another settlement has followed in what will presumably be a continuing series (AP/CNN, May 1). I know very little about these cases, just what the press has reported, but one interesting fact is that the employer was not a defendant, though it had been notified of possible risk and had even provided respirators to the workers (but not enforced their use). Of course, the employer was not subjected to suit because the employees were covered by workers comp laws. Lawyers have developed a whole specialty in workplace injury cases of targeting outside defendants other than the employer in order to find a way around the workers' comp exclusive remedy. One wonders whether juries know that. -- George L. Lenard, Chesterfield, Mo. (George's Employment Blawg)

Posted by Walter Olson at May 7, 2004 12:37 AM