A federal court in Colorado has dismissed the defendants’ post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial thus upholding a $7.5- million jury award to plaintiffs who alleged personal injury from exposure to the diacetyl in microwave popcorn consumed at home. Watson v. Dillon Cos., Inc., No. 08-91 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Colo., order entered April 10, 2013). The court scheduled an April 18 hearing on post-trial motions to amend the judgment and for an award of attorney’s fees and costs.
According to the court, in light of conflicting evidence as to the defendants’ knowledge about purported health effects from diacetyl exposure and whether non-workplace exposures are sufficient to cause injury, a reasonable jury could conclude that the defendants knew about the risk and failed to warn consumers about it. The court also found the punitive damages appropriate because “a reasonable jury could conclude that the Defendants knew about the risk posed to consumers from the diacetyl in their microwave popcorn products, and that this conduct could be construed as willful and wanton.” The court further confirmed its earlier rulings, following three fully contested Daubert hearings, that the expert testimony of Dr. Egilman was properly admitted at trial.