Yet another once-prosperous family has been forced to apply for Chapter 7bankruptcy protection. Some Florida readers may remember the story from a few years ago of a Missouri couple who won a $20 million verdict in a lawsuit against a popcorn manufacturer. The lawsuit revolved around the husband, who worked in the popcorn production facility. He alleged that a chemical in the popcorn’s butter flavoring caused him to develop and irreversible lung disease. The jury agreed, awarding the couple a $20 million verdict.
Though the man’s health problems would continue, it seemed as though the story had an otherwise happy ending-both husband and wife would have the ability to live in permanent financial security.
Or, maybe not. This month, the couple filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, claiming approximately $730,000 in assets and $611,000 in liabilities. Their house appears to have been a large player in their financial troubles. The couple claim that they built the home for $3.9 million, though they’re placing its current value at only $700,000.
They have apparently been encountering financial troubles for some time; last year they were sued by their contractor, who claimed they still owed him over $100,000 for their home. They did not respond to the lawsuit, leading to a default judgment in favor of the contractor. The wife has also recently been accused of forging and bouncing checks.
Stories such as this one are not uncommon, as those who receive sudden windfalls often struggle to manage their newfound wealth. In this case, the man’s ongoing medical condition adds an even more tragic element to the story; it is unclear whether he has yet received the double lung transplant he requires to cure his condition. If he is still facing medical problems, however, the law offers support for him: under Chapter 7 bankrupcy, his medical bills will be either reduced or eliminated. No doubt the couple’s bankruptcy attorney will work to ensure that the man’s medical needs will be provided for throughout the process. This means the couple will be able to continue treating his medical condition as they work to eliminate their debt and recover from their financial difficulties.
Source: The Wichita Eagle, “Missouri couple bankrupt eight years after winning ‘popcorn lung’ verdict,” Jeff Lehr, Oct. 15, 2012