Defective Pressure Cookers Cause Numerous Injuries
Some types of defective products that may result in personal injuries and personal injury lawsuits are apparent because of the potential dangers involved in their very use. A defect in an automobile may suddenly expose us to the threat of physical injury while traveling down a highway at 65 miles per hour. A flaw in a medical device presents an immediate danger to our health because it is implanted directly into people's bodies.A Danger Sitting on Your Kitchen Counter
Other types of defective products may present an equally significant danger simply because we are around them, day in and day out in our everyday lives. We are near these products on such a frequent basis – often without even thinking about the potential dangers present in their use – that the risks they present are virtually invisible. One such product may be sitting on your kitchen counter right now, a defective pressure cooker.Pressure Cookers History
The idea of preparing food by cooking it under intense pressure and heat has been around for a long while. The first known invention of a pressure cooker was more than three centuries ago. The process can cook food much more quickly and thoroughly than cooking in open cookware because the high pressure allows the liquids to reach a much greater temperature before turning to steam.
The use of pressure cooking as part of the canning process of preserving food has also been around for many years, once it was recognized that the higher heat and pressures would do a particularly effective job of sterilizing the product before being sealed in cans or jars. This resulted in the food remaining nutritious and healthy for a much longer time.Dangers and Common Defects in Pressure Cookers
However, anyone who pauses for a moment to consider how a pressure cooker works will quickly realize that the device is very much like a bomb about to explode. The pressure vessel is sealed tightly to intentionally increase the temperature and pressure of the contents within. If that seal were to suddenly rupture, the contents – under high temperature and often as much as 50 degrees hotter than water boiling at normal pressure – could explode outward in a cloud and cause severe burns to anyone who happened to be nearby.
Early attempts at designing and building pressure cookers resulted in numerous failures that kept the product from widespread use until the 20th century. Features like self-locking lids and valves to relieve too-high pressures were developed and incorporated into cooker designs. Modern pressure cookers are typically built of thicker materials that are robust enough to withstand exploding, so the typical place where failure occurs is in the lid and its locking mechanisms and seals.
Modern pressure cookers advertise their various safety features, and manufacturers certainly try to build products that are safe to use. Unfortunately, however, these efforts sometimes fall short, with the result being severe burn injuries. Sometimes these failures occur spontaneously when a lid or seal fails under pressure and explodes. Other failures can happen when defects allow a cooking vessel under pressure to be opened when it should not be or that make it appear that the device is safely unpressurized when it is not.
The significant dangers present in even a properly-designed pressure cooker that is being used as intended are so significant that Underwriters Laboratories – the organization that analyzes, reviews, and certifies products as safe – has written an entire book of standards just for the safe design of pressure cookers.What Products Have Been Identified as Defective?
Unfortunately, the very features that make pressure cookers effective and desirable – the high heat and pressure that cooks food quickly and thoroughly – are the very features that present dangers if the devices are defective, and this translates too often into serious injuries. One consumer protection group counted at least 39 emergency room visits in a single recent year due to injuries involving pressure cookers.
Injuries and/or recalls for defective pressure cookers have been associated with numerous pressure cooker manufacturers. A review of recent recall listings with the Consumer Products Safety Commission includes:
- Double Insight – "Instant Pot" pressure cookers recalled because of shock hazard (1,000 units);
- Breville -- "Fast Slow Cookers" recalled due to defective lid sealing gasket that can result in unexpected pressure release (35,600 units);
- Sunbeam -- "Crock-Pot 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cookers" recalled with lid defect that can allow the unit to pressurize when the lid isn't locked completely (900,000+ units);
- Welbilt brand sold by QVC -- "Electronic Pressure Cookers" voluntary recall due to burning hazard from defective lids (about 900 units);
- Ultrex brand sold through Home Shopping Network -- "Ultrex Pressure Cookers" with a defective lid that can open during cooking (1,450 units);
- Rena Ware -- "Nutrex Pressure Cookers" that can release steam at lower than intended pressures, presenting burn hazard (700 units);
- And more from name brands ranging from Cuisinart to Wolfgang Puck and many others.
The largest single recall among those listed above was for nearly a million units from famed kitchen products manufacturer Sunbeam involving its equally famous Crock-Pot brand. This particular version of their famous device had both the slow-cooking option that made "Crock Pot" well-known as well as a pressure-cooking option that gave this device its "Express Crock Multi-Cooker" name.
The defect in the product involved the design and manufacture of its lid, which could fail to properly lock and then suddenly detach when under the pressure-cooking mode, resulting in severe burn injuries to anyone nearby who might have the pressurized super-heated liquid suddenly sprayed on them.
This particular defect, recall, and associated personal injury cases demonstrate that even the most reputable manufacturers and name-brands – Sunbeam has been manufacturing kitchen appliances since 1910 – can occasionally produce dangerously defective products.
In the following video, Fox 4 News talks to Jill Schmidt, Executive Chef of The Culinary Center of Kansas City, about the potential dangers of pressure cookers.What Are the Common Theories of Legal Liability in Pressure Cooker Lawsuits?
Every case is unique, and liability rules will vary from state to state. However, common theories of liability for defective pressure cooker lawsuits will include:
- Negligent Liability for Defective Products
- Strict Liability for Defective Products
- Breach of Warranty, both Express and Implied
- Breach of Implied Warranty of Fitness for Use
- Various local code violations
Advertising for pressure cookers is common on television and other media, and they are heavily marketed by distributors and retailers. Legal liability – depending on each of the above theories – may extend to virtually any company involved in the product's design, manufacture, distribution, and/or retailing before it reaches the consumer's hands. Just who may be named a defendant in a particular lawsuit will likewise depend on the nature of the defect in that case and which of these possible entities may bear legal responsibility.
Personal injury claims based upon defective pressure cookers are unique, dependent upon the facts in each situation. However, numerous successful lawsuits have been filed and successfully resolved by settlement or trial nationwide. Our law firm would be happy to provide you free, friendly advice and a review of any personal injury claim you might have from an exploding pressure cooker or other defective product.
If you or a member of your family has been injured by a defective pressure cooker or other defective product, it's essential to seek advice from experienced legal professionals. Please contact us for free, friendly advice related to a products liability claim by speaking with one of our injury attorneys at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also reach us through our online form.
Editor's Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 9.29.21]
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