The Illinois court’s ruling in favor of Tammy Rees of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, is the first in a series of similar cases where burn victims are suing the company over unsafe products.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was standing in the kitchen in May 2017 when a spray bottle of oil on a shelf exploded unexpectedly and without warning. The fireball subsequently caused second-degree burns to her face, hands and arms. Her attorney, Craig Smith, says the woman is still limited in movement due to the scars. The lawsuit also states that she left the oil standing 46 centimeters above the stove.
Chicago-based Conagra Brands was ordered to pay $3.1 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages. Many popular American brands such as Swiss Miss, Chef Boyardee or Reddi-wip fall under Conagra, so its value currently exceeds 13 billion dollars, i.e. 294 billion CZK.
Safe when used correctly
The company said in a statement that it disagrees with the court’s decision and that consumer safety is its priority. “We stand behind our sprays, they are effective and safe when people use them correctly,” it said, according to the AP. Conagra is now weighing its options and considering an appeal.
Smith’s attorney said, among other things, that the company is being sued by sixty other people who suffered some kind of injury from the cooking spray. Still, Conagra refuses to recall the defective cans from sale. Another of the burned woman’s attorneys, Peter Flowers, says this is just the beginning of serious problems for Conagra.
The cooking sprays were produced by the company between 2011 and 2019 and used a ventilation system with a lower temperature threshold than previous versions, Smith explained. Four years ago, Conagra said it only used the ventilation system on a limited number of cans. The company subsequently had the entire product redesigned, claiming that this was due to the unification of all cans in the company’s product portfolio and had nothing to do with the lawsuits.
Additionally, all of the sprays have clear warning labels on the front and back telling consumers the product is flammable and should not be kept near a stove or other heat source, the company argued, according to the AP.