More law­suits filed against cook­ing-spray maker Con­a­gra

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Jor­dan Grice Con­tri­bu­tions made by Dan Haar. Jor­[email protected]­medi­

Six more law­suits have been filed against food pack­ag­ing gi­ant Con­a­gra Brands Inc. al­leg­ing the com­pany’s cook­ing spray prod­ucts were prone to ex­plode.

Bridge­port-based law firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder filed the suits Tues­day on be­half of eight peo­ple who are claim­ing that they were harmed when aerosol cans man­u­fac­tured by the Chicago-based com­pany ex­ploded in their kitchens leav­ing them with se­ri­ous burns and dis­fig­ure­ments.

“We want to get our clients paid back and com­pen­sated,” said at­tor­ney Craig Smith, who is rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiffs. “These are out­stand­ing med­i­cal bills and hor­rific in­juries. We also want to make sure that no one else gets burned, if pos­si­ble.”

At is­sue is a 2011 re­design of some ver­sions of the fa­mil­iar Pam cook­ing spray can, which, the law­suits say, cre­ates a haz­ard even though the new de­sign was sup­posed to re­duce the risk of ex­plo­sions.

The new de­sign incorporat­ed vents at the bot­tom of the can that would open if the can heats up to relieve pres­sure and pre­vent ex­plo­sions. But when the vents opened, Smith said, the cans would spray flammable con­tents caus­ing flash fires and ex­plo­sions.

Smith ar­gued that the de­ci­sion to re­design the cans was to cut costs at the ex­pense of safety.

“It is be­yond ir­re­spon­si­ble that, to in­crease prof­its, Con­a­gra Brands made and sold cans of house­hold cook­ing spray that are sus­cep­ti­ble to ex­plo­sion, choos­ing not to use the safer de­signs as it had for the last 60 years, and failed to warn con­sumers about the very se­ri­ous risks,” Smith said in a press re­lease.

A Con­a­gra spokesman did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a call for com­ment.

Plain­tiffs in the new law­suits are: ⏩ Maria Mar­i­ani, who claimed a can­is­ter ex­ploded in April at her mother’s Staten Is­land, N.Y., apart­ment while she was boil­ing wa­ter, re­sult­ing in burns on 30 per­cent of her skin.

⏩ Raveen Su­gan­theraj, a med­i­cal stu­dent who suf­fered se­vere burns to his face, neck, arms and hands when a cook­ing spray can ex­plode while he was pre­par­ing din­ner in his In­di­anapo­lis apart­ment in March.

⏩ Paytene Pivonka and Ja­cob Dalton, a Utah cou­ple who sus­tained third-de­gree burns on Nov. 6, 2018, after a can of Pam ex­ploded on a shelf above their gas stove while they were cook­ing.

⏩ An­drea Bear­den and Bran­don Banks sus­tained se­ri­ous burns while cook­ing at a rel­a­tive’s home after a can of Pam ex­ploded in May

2018 after falling onto the stove in Mount Carmel, Ill.

⏩ Rev­e­ri­ano Du­ran was seriously burned and dis­fig­ured on July 16,

2017 while work­ing his shift as a cook at Ber­ry­hill Baja Grill in Hous­ton. The law­suit said Du­ran had placed a can of Pam cook­ing spray on a shelf in front of a grill; the can ex­ploded and started a full-scale kitchen fire that was cap­tured on video.

⏩ On July 15, 2017, Y’Te­sia Tay­lor sus­tained se­ri­ous burns on her body after a can­is­ter of Pam ex­ploded while she was cook­ing in Greenville, Texas. The law­suit claims that Tay­lor had set the can on a cart away from the stove be­fore the in­ci­dent, which left her with potentiall­y per­ma­nent in­juries.

“It’s oc­cur­ring all over,” Smith said. “It’s the same sce­nario in each one of those cases, and be­cause we’ve been lit­i­gat­ing these, we are ex­pe­ri­enced in that.”

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder pre­vi­ously filed at least two law­suits against Con­a­gra mak­ing the same claims. One in­volved a West Haven mother who suf­fered se­vere burns after a can ex­ploded while she was cook­ing for her fam­ily in 2014. In the other, two Yale stu­dents op­er­at­ing a ca­ter­ing busi­ness were in­jured.

The law­suit in­volv­ing the Yale stu­dents is on­go­ing, ac­cord­ing to Smith, who said it’s pend­ing in Con­necti­cut Fed­eral Court in Bridge­port.

He was un­able to com­ment on the sta­tus of the other case in­volv­ing the West Haven mother.

One year ago, in re­sponse to those cases, a spokesman for Con­a­gra, pre­vi­ously known as Con­A­gra Foods Inc., is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment:

In re­sponse to the 2015 law­suit in­volv­ing the West Haven woman Con­a­gra said in a fil­ing, “Con­a­gra expressly de­nies that the Pam aerosol can­is­ter was in a de­fec­tive con­di­tion due to any act of omis­sion, de­sign or prac­tice of Con­a­gra.

“Pam Cook­ing Sprays have been used safely by mil­lions of Amer­i­cans for more than 50 years for bak­ing, grilling and cook­ing. This stands as a tes­ta­ment to both the ef­fec­tive­ness of the prod­uct and its safety with proper use. Con­a­gra is sym­pa­thetic to the claims be­ing made in the lit­i­ga­tion, but Pam Cook­ing Spray is a prod­uct that has stood the test of time. We feel that it is be­ing wrongly ac­cused.”

Dan Haar / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Guiller­mina Coello, a New Haven res­i­dent with three chil­dren, suf­fered burns on her hands, arms and neck and was in the Bridge­port Hos­pi­tal burn unit for a month after a can of cook­ing spray she was us­ing to make beans burst in her apart­ment. She is shown in the of­fices of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder. She’s su­ing Con­a­gra, maker of Pam, through the Bridge­port firm.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pam cook­ing spray on dis­play at a mar­ket in Palo Alto, Calif.

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