Videos and graphic images of exploding cans demonstrate the danger of household cooking spray cans; dozens of additional cases remain pending
CHICAGO, IL–The first trial in a series of personal injury lawsuits related to exploding cooking spray cans resulted Monday in a $7.1 million verdict for a Pennsylvania woman and a reminder of the potential danger of the household cooking product.
A jury in Cook County Superior Court awarded a $7.1 million verdict to Tammy Reese, a Pennsylvania woman, who was one of dozens of people injured from exploding cans of household cooking spray made by the food packaging giant Conagra. The award includes $4 million for punitive damages and $3.1 million in compensatory damages for the plaintiff. These incidents, which have occurred in home kitchens and restaurants across the country, have led to permanent injuries for dozens of customers. A total of 56 cases have been filed with 61 injured plaintiffs since the complaint was brought forth against Conagra, which manufactures PAM and other similar cooking spray brands.
On May 9, 2017, Reese was working as a cook at a social club in Shippensburg, PA, when the cooking spray can overpressurized and exploded, igniting in flames and catching Tammy on fire. She sustained burns on her forearms, both hands, and her face.
“Nothing can begin to describe the excruciating pain and fear I felt that day. When I learned that countless other people had experienced what I went through and that no recall was ever made, I felt angry. I hope that they can get justice for the pain Conagra caused them to live with for the rest of our lives,” said the plaintiff Tammy Reese.
Cooking spray is most commonly designed as an aerosol container that dispenses a fluid product under pressure. In 2011, Conagra began using a new kind of aerosol can in an effort to save money, as detailed in the lawsuits filed.
The new design is used primarily for cans that contain more than 10 oz. of product, the type usually sold at wholesale retail chains around the country under either the PAM label or generic store brands manufactured by Conagra for retailers. The new design includes a venting mechanism on the bottom of the can – visible as four U-shaped score marks – intended to allow the container to vent its flammable contents in a controlled manner. The plaintiffs in these cases have alleged that the design of the cans is faulty, dangerous and prone to explosion.
“Conagra recklessly put countless people in danger when it became aware of the clear danger posed by these defective spray cans. It was even more irresponsible to reject a recall that could have averted additional injuries after these claims came to light, despite Conagra having known about these issues previously. While the jury’s award won’t be able to undo some of the victims’ injuries, we hope it can begin to undo some of the harm that Conagra caused them,” said J. Craig Smith of Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder, one of the law firms representing the victims in the cases.
Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder and Meyers & Flowers, who represent the plaintiffs, have conducted unique research and product-safety testing on the design and safety of Conagra-manufactured spray cans. The research consisted of a variety of experts and lab tests over the course of several years. This extensive testing proved, undoubtedly, the defectiveness and faulty design of the bottom of Conagra cooking spray cans and the extreme safety hazards for consumers using the product.
“Overlooking the clear and present risk that their product caused to their customers just so they can turn a profit is one of the most shocking examples of corporate negligence that I’ve seen. While these defective cans are no longer being manufactured, consumers should still be aware that they are on the shelves and they can permanently harm you,” said Pete Flowers of Meyers & Flowers, who also represents the plaintiffs.
Evidently aware of the danger the new can design poses, Conagra has inferred to business partners that, as of January 1, 2019, it has discontinued additional production using the new design. However, the company refused to issue a nationwide recall of the already-shipped product, which has a shelf life of several years, resulting in the dangerous cans remaining on store shelves.
About Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder
Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, based in Connecticut, is a nationally recognized law firm that, in 2022, achieved a landmark legal victory on behalf of nine families of the Sandy Hook School shooting. The firm has also achieved record verdicts for people who suffer serious harm from violation of their civil or constitutional rights, medical malpractice, dangerous products, negligence, corporate or governmental abuse and commercial misconduct.
About Meyers & Flowers
Led by Illinois Top 100 Super Lawyer and former President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Peter J. Flowers, the Meyers & Flowers’ team of experienced trial attorneys routinely take on large challenges and succeed. For more than two decades, the firm has represented clients both locally in Chicago and nationally in a full spectrum of cases involving catastrophic personal injuries, medical malpractice, workplace injuries and wrongful death.