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Stults v. American Pop Corn Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 4, 2016

David Stults; Barbara Stults, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
American Pop Corn Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Givaudan Flavors Corporation, Defendants,

Submitted October 22, 2015

Page 410

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 411

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Sioux City.

For David Stults, Barbara Stults, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Scott A. Britton-Mehlisch, Steven E. Crick, Michael S. Kilgore, Litigation Counsel, Kenneth Blair McClain, Jonathan M. Soper, Kevin Daniel Stanley, HUMPHREY & FARRINGTON, Independence, MO; Dennis Merril McElwain, Jay Madison Smith, MacDonald Smith, SMITH & MCELWAIN, Sioux City, IA.

For International Flavors & Frangrances, Inc., Bush Boake Allen Inc., Defendants - Appellees: Brannon J. Arnold, Earl W. Gunn, Richard H. Hill, II, Michael Alan Holcomb, Robert P. Marcovitch, David I. Matthews, WEINBERG & WHEELER, Atlanta, GA; Joseph J. Ferrini, Edward Kay, Thomas H. Ryerson, Don R. Sampen, CLAUSEN & MILLER, Chicago, IL; Patrick L. Sealey, Jeff William Wright, HEIDMAN LAW FIRM, Sioux City, IA.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, SMITH and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 412

RILEY, Chief Judge

David Stults (Stults) consumed one to three bags of microwave popcorn each day for approximately twenty years. In 2009, Stults was diagnosed with the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans, which he attributes to his consumption of a chemical used to give the popcorn its butter flavor. In this diversity action, Stults and his wife Barbara (the Stultses), residents of Michigan, sued numerous makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring, alleging their products caused Stults's disease. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). This appeal pertains only to International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., a New York corporation, and its subsidiary, Bush Boake Allen Inc., a Virginia and New York corporation (collectively, IFF). After a jury found in favor of IFF, the Stultses moved for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The district court[1] denied the motions, and the Stultses appeal. Having jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Stults ate a lot of popcorn. For approximately twenty years, he practiced " a ritual of slowly opening the freshly-popped bag as he breathed the aroma in through his nose" one to three times per day. Stults originally estimated he stopped eating popcorn around 2004, but later gave conflicting accounts of his popcorn consumption history. A chemical named diacetyl that IFF once used in a butter flavoring for microwave popcorn has been shown to cause bronchiolitis obliterans, at least in workers who are exposed to industrial quantities of diacetyl over long durations.

The Stultses sued numerous makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring on theories of strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied warranty under Michigan law. Only the Stultses' breach-of-implied-warranty claim against IFF, with a related loss-of-consortium claim, went to trial. IFF asserted, among others, affirmative defenses of sole proximate cause and fault of others.

At trial, a number of expert witnesses agreed Stults has ...


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