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"I thought that the stove had exploded," Andrea Bearden told the Chicago Tribune. "I heard a loud boom and the next thing I knew there were flames everywhere." Bearden was with boyfriend Brandon Banks when he suffered second-degree burns on his arms and hands after a can of Pam cooking spray exploded in a friend's kitchen last year.
Banks racked up $64,000 in medical bills for treatment and was out of work so long he lost his job, and the pair are plaintiffs in one of a few new lawsuits filed against Pam manufacturer Conagra. They claim a defective can design causes them to explode during normal cooking use, causing fires and severe burns.
A grand total of six lawsuits -- involving plaintiffs living in Illinois, Indiana, New York, Texas, and Utah --have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago citing an aerosol can design that allowed liquid containing propane and butane to seep out, igniting kitchen fires. While cans of Pam feature warning labels about its flammability and advice users not to leave it on a stove or near a heat source, an attorney representing the plaintiffs claims the warnings are inadequate.
"No one knows what the heck 'near' (a heat source) means," J. Craig Smith says, and legal filings allege that Pam "was designed and advertised to be used around stoves/grills, and had no adequate warnings about possible dangers of doing so."
Y’Tesia Taylor says she was just using the spray for a cobbler and set the Pam canister on a cart adjacent to her stove before "she heard a loud noise as the canister suddenly and without warning began spraying its extremely flammable contents through the u-shaped vents on the bottom of the can and exploded into flames." Taylor's lawsuit claims she sustained "burns, scarring, disfigurement, blindness in her right eye, and lung damage," and also lost her job due to scarring from the incident.
"I'm still shocked at the fact that something I use on a day-to-day basis just exploded and changed my life forever."
Conagra spokesperson Dan Hare pushed back on those allegations, claiming "the safety of our products and our consumers is our top priority."
"Pam cooking sprays have been used safely by millions of Americans for more than 50 years for baking, grilling, and cooking," Hare told the Tribune, adding that Pam is no longer available in the cans at issue. "To reiterate, the vented can design is no longer in production," Hare said in a statement. "And, when PAM is used correctly, as instructed, it is a 100-percent safe and effective product."
So, if you're using Pam, especially from one of its vented aerosol can designs, be very careful. And if you think you've been injured by a defective product, contact an experienced products liability attorney in your area.