INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis man is one of six people suing the company that manufactures PAM and other canned cooking sprays after being severely burned and injured when a can of the cooking spray exploded or caught fire.
The law firm representing the six individuals, Koskoff Koskoff and Bieder, issued a press release on Tuesday saying their lawsuit "aims to highlight the dangers of certain household cooking spray cans and Conagra's refusal to recall them."
Raveen Sugantheraj, a medical student in Indianapolis, was burned back in March.
His girlfriend, Rachel McCree, shared his story with RTV6 because Sugantheraj was still in the hospital having multiple surgeries at the time.
McCree said Sugantheraj had been cooking when a can of PAM cooking spray sitting near the stove top exploded, causing a fire. Once the couple put out the fire, they noticed Sugantheraj had been severely burned and he was taken to the hospital where he had to undergo multiple skin grafs and other surgeries from the burns on the upper part of his body.
"He's a full-time med student. He's educated. He's very smart... He had no idea — I had no idea," McRee said at the time. "We know to keep cooking oil away, especially not on the stove top, but we had placed it far enough to where we thought it was OK."
The law firm says their independent testing, over the course of several years, found a defect in the bottom of Conagra cooking spray cans that made them an extreme safety hazard. They claim Conagra has discontinued production of the new can design, but has refused to issue a recall for the already-shipped product.
“It is beyond irresponsible that, to increase profits, Conagra Brands made and sold cans of household cooking spray that are susceptible to explosion, choosing not to use the safer designs as it had for the last sixty years, and failed to warn consumers about the very serious risks,” J. Craig Smith of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, the law firm that represents the victims in each of the cases, said. “Perhaps more alarming is the fact that, to this day, Conagra apparently refuses to institute a nationwide recall to ensure that the defective cans sitting on store shelves right now are removed before someone else suffers permanent injury from an explosion. Each day that these cans remain on store shelves, Conagra’s negligence puts consumers in danger.”
The six different lawsuits against Conagra Brands Inc, were filed in Cook County Superior Court in Chicago, home of Conagra's headquarters. The lawsuits claim the company's product is dangerous and caused injuries to people in home kitchens and at least one restaurant.
All six of those incidents were detailed in the press release issued by Koskoff Koskoff and Bieder on Tuesday.
You can read those descriptions below.
- On April 5, 2019, Maria Mariani was using the stove to boil water at her mother’s apartment in Staten Island, N.Y. Just as she shut the flame off, a cooking spray can erupted, setting fire to her hair which then quickly spread to her clothes and body. The fire charred nearly 30% of her skin and she now faces a long and painful process of surgery and rehabilitation.
- On March 6, 2019, Raveen Sugantheraj, a medical student, was cooking dinner in his Indianapolis apartment when a fire broke out in the kitchen after the cooking spray can he was using vented and burst into flames. He and his girlfriend managed to put out the flames but Sugantheraj suffered severe burns to his face, neck, arms and hands that have required several surgeries and multiple skin grafts.
- On November 6, 2018, a married Utah couple, Paytene Pivonka and Jacob Dalton, were using PAM cooking spray while cooking dinner at home on a gas stove. The can was located on a shelf several feet above the stove when it began spewing gas, propelling the can off of the shelf and onto the stove. It then exploded, creating an inescapable fireball that set the couple on fire. Both Ms. Pivonka and Mr. Dalton suffered excruciating pain and sustained third-degree burns to their faces, necks, arms and hands.
- On May 19, 2018, a couple in Mt. Carmel, Ill., Andrea Bearden and Brandon Banks were cooking at a relative’s home. The PAM cooking spray can was located on a shelf above the stove when it suddenly vented and fell onto the stove spewing flammable gas and oil into the flames, causing a fireball that burned both of them. The two were rushed to the nearest burn unit in Kentucky and treated for injuries to their faces, upper torsos and arms.
- On July 16, 2017, Reveriano Duran was working his usual shift as a cook at Berryhill Baja Grill in Houston, Texas. He had placed a can of PAM cooking spray on a shelf in front of a grill when, without warning, the can began spraying flammable contents through its bottom vents. The can then exploded into flames, igniting a full-scale restaurant kitchen fire. As a result of the explosion, captured on video from a restaurant surveillance camera in the kitchen, Mr. Duran suffered serious and sustained injuries, including burns, scarring and disfigurement.
- On July 15, 2017, Y’Tesia Taylor, then a college student from Greenville, Texas, was preparing food at home using PAM cooking spray purchased from her local Wal-Mart. She had just set the can on a cart separate from the stove when she heard a sudden pop and then was immediately engulfed in a fireball caused by the exploding can. With skin hanging off of her arms, Ms. Taylor’s family called 9-1-1 and she was transported to the Greenville airport by ambulance and then airlifted to a hospital in Plano. Ms. Taylor sustained burns to her face, neck, chest, abdomen and both arms, and was placed in a medically induced coma for two weeks. Inhalation of the fireball caused her throat to swell and close, in addition to scarring her lungs. During the explosion, her contact lens was also burned to her right eye, causing damage so great that she is currently, and perhaps permanently, mostly blind in that eye.
Conagra issued a statement to RTV6 back in March saying, "Like other aerosols, PAM Cooking Sprays are flammable, and its contents are under pressure. All PAM Cooking Sprays include warnings on the front and back of the packaging warning consumers that the product is flammable."
The company also added that it should not be left on a stove or near a heat source, should not be sprayed near an open flame and should not be stored above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.