A jury in Illinois ordered Chicago-based Conagra Brands to pay $7.1 million to a Pennsylvania woman who was badly burned when a can of cooking spray caught fire at her workplace kitchen.

The woman, Tammy Reese, was working in a kitchen at Hub City Club in Shippensburg, Pa., in May 2017 and using Pam cooking spray when it suddenly “exploded into a fireball, causing burns,” according to the complaint filed in 2019.

Ms. Reese suffered second-degree burns on her head, face, hands and arms and spent weeks getting burn care, Ms. Reese’s lawyer, J. Craig Smith, said.

The jury ruled in favor of Ms. Reese on counts that included liability, design defect, failure to warn, and negligence and willful and wanton conduct, according to documents filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday.

Conagra Brands, the parent company of Pam and several other brands including Marie Callender’s, Reddi-wip and Chef Boyardee, must pay $3.1 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages to Ms. Reese, according to court documents.

“She’s been through a lot, and she deserves this compensation,” Mr. Smith said. “The can of cooking spray in this case was unreasonably dangerous and they failed to warn about it.”

The lawsuit alleged the cans were defective because they had a U-shaped vent in the bottom that made them prone to explosion and the cooking spray had “extremely flammable materials such as propane and butane.”

There are about 50 pending burn victim cases against Conagra being litigated by Koskoff and Meyers & Flowers, the two firms that represented Ms. Reese.

A Conagra spokesman said that the specific type of cans in question in the lawsuit haven’t been available for more than four years. The company also wrote that it disagreed with the jury’s verdict and was evaluating whether to appeal.

Pam and other cooking sprays have clear warning labels saying the product is flammable and should not be left on or near a stove or heat source, Conagra told The Associated Press. Cooking spray shouldn’t be stored above 120 degrees or sprayed near an open flame, the company said.

“The safety of our products and our consumers is always a top priority of Conagra,” the statement said. “We continue to stand by our cooking spray products, which are safe and effective when used correctly, as instructed.”


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