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7th Circuit Reinstates Renssalaer Workers’ “Popcorn Lung” Claim

first_imgKatie Stancombe for www.theindianalawyer.comThe 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a claim filed by nearly 30 workers who argue a microwave popcorn plant failed to warn them of exposure during the manufacturing process to a butter flavor ingredient that has been linked to a disease known as “popcorn lung.”The workers allege that exposure caused them to suffer from respiratory injuries related to the flavoring ingredient diacetyl while working at the ConAgra Snack Foods Group plant in Rensselaer. In Sept. 2017, Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker granted summary judgment to the plant’s longtime supplier, Givaudan Flavors Corp., finding that the plaintiffs provided no expert testimony on the costs and benefits of a diacetyl-free butter flavor.In Gregory Aregood, Jr. v. Givaudan Flavors Corporation, 17-3390, Givaudan faced several claims under Indiana product liability law for strict liability, failure to warn, negligence, and design defect. On appeal, the 7th Circuit Court found summary judgment for Givaudan to be proper on all counts, with the exception that the supplier failed to warn that its products contained a dangerous substance.When inhaled, diacetyl can cause bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung” — the inflammation and obstruction of the smallest airways of the lungs. Symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, and can lead to worse personal injuries.“In the mid‐1980s, Givaudan learned from its trade association that inhaling diacetyl was ‘harmful’ and ‘capable of producing system toxicity,’” Judge Michael Brennan wrote for the panel Thursday. “In the 1990s, three employees at Givaudan’s plant in Cincinnati were diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, and one died.”On appeal, the employees focused on Givaudan’s manufacturing and supply of butter flavorings, its accompanying material safety data sheets, and the lack of warnings that the flavorings contained diacetyl. In order to show that the butter flavorings were defective under the Indiana Product Liability Act and to prevail on their failure to warn claim, the 7th Circuit noted the plaintiffs needed show Givaudan had a duty to adequately warn about a latent dangerous characteristic. The 7th Circuit found that the supplier failed to warn in that regard.The 7th Circuit also found that a jury could reasonably conclude that Givaudan knew of diacetyl’s dangers after several cases of bronchiolitis obliterans in the 1990s, as well as the need to protect its own employees and the users of its products.“Viewing the evidence in the employees’ favor, and drawing justifiable inferences for them, a reasonable jury could conclude that Givaudan failed to discharge its duty to warn the plaintiff employees on the dangers of diacetyl,” the court concluded. “Thus, summary judgment should not have been granted to Givaudan on plaintiffs’ failure to warn claim.”FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

School of Religion to begin PhD program for next fall

first_imgThe School of Religion at USC announced that they will be offering a doctoral program for students to receive their Ph.D. in religion beginning in fall 2015.The five-year program, which begins accepting applications this fall, will allow graduate students to pursue a particular concentration within religion. There are three tracks for students to choose from: Comparative Christianities, Global Islam and Asian Pacific Religions.The application process for the program includes submitting scores from the Graduate Record Examination, an academic writing sample, a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. Students will also be expected to be proficient in their track’s respective language. For example, students studying Global Islam should be capable of reading primary sources in Arabic.Sherman Jackson, a professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity, has been named the new Director of Graduate Studies and was part of the effort to start this Ph.D. program at USC.“There has been a very keen interest among students to have a graduate program at USC,” Jackson said. “Part of that has to do with the quality of our faculty and what they’ve achieved and what their national and international reputations are, and part of it has to do with the very diverse population we have in Southern California.”Though students will focus primarily on their respective tracks within the program, they will also have the opportunity to take classes in other departments and programs in the university. This will allow for a broader context of the issues affecting global religion, as well as to be able to put what they learn into practice.“We have a very interdisciplinary focus as well, and that’s one of the things that really enhances our students’ ability to place their training into conversation within the real-world reality,” Jackson said.Associate Professor Lori Meeks was appointed the chair of religion in August, a position through which she oversees both the undergraduate and graduate programs in religion at USC.“Even though this is a graduate program, we believe that it will add a lot of vitality to our undergraduate program, as well,” she said. “We think it will help us create even more enthusiasm around the study of religion at USC.”Along with the new doctoral program, the School of Religion will be starting a lunch series on Wednesdays where students will have the opportunity to learn about ongoing faculty research.Like many other doctoral programs throughout the country, the program at USC will be fully funded by the university. Tuition will be covered for students, and they will receive health insurance and a stipend for housing and living expenses.Several faculty members said they are excited to begin the program next fall. Their focus will be on ensuring a welcoming environment for students to share ideas and beliefs, allowing them to learn not only from faculty, but also from each other. Eventually, students will be prepared to pursue careers in fields such as academia, religious institutions and community activism.“Here at USC, our focus is on ensuring that students have mastered the textual traditions of the respective religions,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, that they’re able to place all of that erudite knowledge into conversation with the real-life comings and goings of religious communities in the world.”last_img read more