This is how they work. Pressure cookers warm up and cook food at an even temperature by trapping heat in a pot within a (supposedly) secure lid to prevent steam from escaping. Electric pressure cookers include features such as a timer, temperature gauge, food-specific settings and some have Bluetooth technology. Stovetop pressure cookers require the consumer to manually control the temperature. Both manual and electric versions include a safety valve to release the pressure (supposedly) before opening the lid. But malfunctions include indications that materials in the cooker are ready. Temperatures can soar to over 200F so as you can imagine, reliability is crucial. But if the pot is opened before all the steam has escaped, it creates an “explosion” of the contents inside once it is released.
Given that millions of these defective products are sold (Pope refers to them as “cash cows”), it’s no wonder the makers, distributors and retailers don’t want to make public exploding pressure cookers. “Thankfully pressure cooker explosions are rare but they can cause catastrophic injuries,” says Pope. “Sadly, too many children have suffered 2nd to 4th degree burns because these pressure cookers usually sit on a kitchen counter with curious kids around.” Say mom is cooking rice and the kids don’t want to wait–if the lock doesn’t work properly, they can just open the cooker before it’s finished venting.
Pope is all too familiar with pressure cooker explosion cases. He has clients whose children have suffered serious burns because the safety valve didn’t work properly and kids can open the lid under pressure. The boiling liquids and foods in the cooker are explosively released. “A simple mechanism is supposed to prevent boiling materials from escaping, like that on a washing machine, but safety mechanisms don’t work properly on a fair number of brands,” says Pope. “There’s no red-light warnings so curious kids get impatient or think the food is cooked.
“I have another client whose cooker had a defective seal and it exploded. To give you some idea of how dangerous a pressure cooker could be, think of the Boston Marathon bomber – he used two pressure cookers filled with nails and ball bearings. In that case a pressure cooker is considered an improvised explosive device.”
Pressure Cooker Explosion Lawsuits and Recalls
Pressure cooker explosion lawsuits allege that numerous brands of pressure cookers have defective safety mechanisms that cause steam, boiling liquids and food to explode or eject from the cooker. Due to their popularity with American home cooks over the past few decades, pressure cooker lawsuits are on the rise and with them, over 20 recalls for various issues. To give a few examples, Instant Pot was recalled back in 2018 due to a fire hazard; in late 2020, Sunbeam recalled almost 1 million Crock-Pot Express Pressure Cookers after 99 burn injuries and 119 reports of the lid detaching. “The recalled Crock-Pot multi-cooker can pressurize when the lid is not fully locked.” Breville recalled 35,600 "fast slow cookers” in 2015 due to a defective sealing gasket. And in 2019, Tower pressure cookers were recalled “because the lid can open and cause hot foot to explode out of the pot and burn anyone nearby”.
The majority of injuries are severe burns, called thermal burns, from scalding liquid or steam coming into contact with skin. Thermal burns can scar forever as they can cause scarring and disfigurement, and they can cause emotional injuries such as depression and nightmares. Other injuries included in lawsuits include eye injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
Pressure Cooker Manufacturers and Brands
Several brands named in lawsuits include Instant Pot, Crock Pot, Cuisinart and Breville. Attorney Pope says that the same defective pressure cookers are put on the market over and over again and simply rebranded. They are made in China by just a few manufacturers. “They are inherently dangerous so it’s incumbent upon manufacturers and retailers to ensure that safety precautions are in place to prevent adverse events from happening,” explains Pope.
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Attorney Pope and his law firm have successfully represented people who have sustained serious burns after their pressure cooker exploded. And parents have filed complaints on behalf of their injured children. Even if you purchased a pressure cooker several years ago, you may have a case. Pope McGlamry is a nationally recognized law firm with decades of experience in class action, personal injury, and defective product litigation.