Man joins nationwide lawsuit after cooking spray can explodes at Houston restaurant

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston man is part of a nationwide lawsuit against a company that makes the popular Pam cooking spray. The professional cook said he set down the can of aerosol cooking spray while he was cooking on a grill and the can exploded. 

The incident happened in July 2017.

Reveriano Duran was working his usual shift at Berryhill Baja Grill in Houston. Attorneys said he had placed a can of aerosol cooking spray manufactured by Conagra Brand Inc., "on a shelf in front of a grill" when, all of a sudden, the can exploded into flames, igniting the kitchen on fire.

The explosion was captured on surveillance camera in the kitchen.

*WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised*

WATCH: Employee injured after cooking spray explodes

Duran suffered major burns in the fiery incident. He said he had to undergo skin grafts for burns, scarring and disfigurement and that he underwent multiple medical treatments and incurred multiple medical bills.

"It almost looked like he disappeared," Craig Smith, with the Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder Law firm, said of the surveillance video.

Duran is being represented by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, which is also representing the victims in five other similar cases, and by Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law, which is based in Houston.

Conagra, which manufactures the aerosol vented cans, started making the cans in 2011, according to attorneys. Attorneys claim the company turned to the design as a cheaper option. Conagra said the vented can is safe and has a clear warning about how they should be used. The vented cans in question are generally 10oz. or more and can be identified by for U shape vents at the bottom of the can. 

"They are designed to vent if the pressures in the can are too high," said Steve Waldman, an attorney with Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law. "And with whipped cream, that's not usually a problem because the propellant in whipped cream is not usually a problem, but when they started putting it in this cooking spray, the propellant in this spray is very similar to that of a butane lighter."

Attorneys said the can vents very flammable gas that may ignite if exposed to heat or an open flame. Duran and five other people experienced similar incidents.

Other incidents

Attorneys said that on April 5, Maria Mariani was using the stove to boil water in New York when she shut the flame off and a cooking can spray erupted, according to attorneys. The fire charred nearly 30% of her skin.

In another case that happened on March 6, Raveen Sugantheraj, a medical student, was cooking dinner in Indianapolis apartment when a fire broke out in the kitchen after, attorneys said the cooking spray he used "vented and burst into flames."

A third case happened on Nov. 6, 2018, when a married Utah couple, Paytene Pivonka and Jacob Dalton, were using Pam cooking spray with a gas stove. The can was located on a shelf several feet above the stove and "it began spewing gas, propelling the can off the shelf and onto the stove," where it then exploded, according to attorneys. The couple suffered third-degree burns to their faces.

In May 2018 in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, Andrea Bearden and Brandon Banks were cooking at a relative's home. A can of cooking spray was on a shelf when, according to attorneys, it suddenly "vented and fell onto the stove," where it exploded, causing injuries. 

On July 15, 2017, Y'Tesla Taylor, then a college student from Greenville, Texas was preparing food at home using Pam cooking spray. She said she had set the can on a space separate from the stove and it exploded. Attorneys said she had skin hanging off her arms and suffered from pain.

Conagra responded with this statement:

"Please know the safety of our products and our consumers is always our top priority.

"When PAM is used correctly, as instructed, it is a 100-percent safe and effective product. PAM Cooking Sprays is used safely and properly by millions of people several times a day, every single day. The product has been used for more than 50 years for the baking, grilling and cooking needs of consumers everywhere.

"All PAM Cooking Sprays include large, clear instructions, warnings and cautions on both the front and back of the packaging alerting consumers that the product should be used responsibly as it is flammable, and 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°F.

"The vented can design in question, was used in market on a limited number of cans over the last several years. We redesign packaging in the ordinary course of business, and just as we introduced the vented can years ago, we removed it from production, earlier this year, as we sought to standardize our cans across the entire aerosol cooking spray product line. So, that design is no longer in production. 

"We fully stand by this product. To reiterate, when PAM is used correctly, as instructed, it is a 100-percent safe and effective product."

The lawsuits have been filed in Cook County, where Conagra's headquarters is located. Attorneys said they hope that Conagra will recall the vented cans. 

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