Newly Filed Lawsuits Highlight Ongoing Risk Of Exploding Household Cooking Spray Cans

September 24, 2019

Doug Cohen / 617-595-7160
[email protected]

17 New Lawsuits Filed Against Conagra Today, Totaling 33 Since May; Conagra has Yet to Institute a Nationwide Recall of Defective Cooking Spray Cans

Videos of Explosions and Graphic Images Illustrate Extent of Injuries Caused by Cooking Spray Cans Even When Used Properly

CHICAGO, IL - 17 new lawsuits were filed against food packaging giant Conagra Brands Inc. by victims injured from exploding cans of household cooking spray. These shocking incidents, which have occurred in home kitchens, restaurants and cookouts across the country, have led to permanent injuries for dozens of workers, children and parents.

Since May 2019, a total of 33 lawsuits have been filed by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder and Meyers & Flowers against Conagra, which manufactures PAM and other similar cooking spray brands. Despite the clear danger posed by these defective spray cans, Conagra has yet to institute a nationwide recall, letting these cans sit on shelves in stores like Costco, BJ's Warehouse, Walmart and even online at Amazon. DS Containers, Inc., the manufacturer of the cans on behalf of Conagra, is also named in the lawsuits.

"These are more shocking examples of Conagra's negligence putting consumers in danger. It is beyond irresponsible that Conagra continues to sell cans of household cooking spray that are susceptible to explosion just so they can turn a profit. Despite having known about these issues for months, Conagra has refused to institute a nationwide recall in order to protect consumers. It's time for Conagra to act and recall these defective cans now," said J. Craig Smith of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder.

"When our research showed just how dangerous the venting on the can design is, we realized it was imperative to warn the public before more needless injuries occur. This cooking spray is so common and can be found in almost every kitchen in the U.S. We are urging home cooks and food service professionals to beware and to check those cans in your cabinets and pantries. We also are questioning why Conagra continues to put countless Americans and their families at risk of potentially deadly burns and injuries," said Peter J. Flowers, Founding Partner at Meyers & Flowers.

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. The new design is used primarily for cans that contain more than 10 oz. of product, the type usually sold at more than 1,000 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.

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.

The lawsuits were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, located in Chicago, where Conagra maintains its headquarters. In addition to these 17 new cases, amended lawsuits were filed in eight other cases on September 20, naming DS Containers, Inc. as a defendant.

Details of some of the incidents are as follows:

  • On June 17, 2019, Edward Oliver was burned in his home while cooking using a Member's Mark cooking spray can sold at Sam's Wholesale. He was airlifted to a burn center in Texas where he was placed into a medically induced coma for 20 days. Mr. Oliver has a wife and four young children.
  • On April 6, 2019, Larry Mulanax was cooking at home when his PAM cooking spray can exploded. He had to be airlifted to a burn center in Missouri, where he was hospitalized for nearly three weeks. His kitchen was severely damaged by the fire, and he suffered burns on the entire top half of his body. He now has scarring on his arms, hands and face. Most of his hair was completely burned off at the time of the incident.
  • On March 1, 2018, Marco Rivera caught on fire when a PAM cooking spray exploded while at home with his wife and two small children. Rivera, a professional body builder, suffered burns and severely injured his shoulder. After shoulder surgery and a year of rehabilitation, he was forced to retire from bodybuilding. He still has scarring and discoloration on his shoulder, arm and back.
  • On August 2, 2017, chef Challis Buck was severely burned by an exploding PAM cooking spray bottle while working at a restaurant. She suffered severe injuries to the back of her body from her ankles to her head, and all of her hair was burned off. She received treatment at a burn care unit for over four months. She was pregnant at the time, and her pregnancy was deemed high risk because of the treatment required for her burns.
  • On February 1, 2018, twins Brittany and Brianna Kraemer-Burns were injured while working at a restaurant in Burton, Texas. Both were hospitalized for several days and Brianna, who was cooking at the time, had to receive skin grafts. Both now have scarring and swelling on their arms, hands and neck. Video of the incident can be seen here.
  • On July 26, 2018, Brandon Cox was working in a restaurant kitchen in Summerville, South Carolina, when a spray can suddenly exploded, igniting a fire in the kitchen. Cox was severely burned all over his body and has experienced scarring and disfigurement. He has not been able to return to work and continues to receive significant medical treatment. Video of the incident can be seen here.

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder and Meyers & Flowers believe there are additional injury victims who may not realize the potential cause of a kitchen fire or explosion experienced in the home.

Evidently aware of the danger the new can design poses, Conagra publicly stated they stopped production of this particular spray can version earlier this year in response to this legal action, though did not specify safety concerns as one of the reasons. Still, the company has refused to issue a nationwide recall of already-shipped product, which has a shelf life of several years. As of today, millions of defective cans remain on store shelves available for purchase by unsuspecting consumers.

Founded in 1919, Conagra is an American packaged foods company, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Conagra manufactures many household name brands that are sold across retail and restaurant channels, including Marie Callender's, Healthy Choice, Slim Jim, Hebrew National, Orville Redenbacher's, Reddi-wip, Snack Pack and more. Conagra generates more than $11 billion in revenue and employs more than 17 thousand employees across approximately 50 locations in the U.S. and internationally.