Woman receives $7.1 million in lawsuit over cooking spray that 'exploded into a fireball'

She allegedly sustained the burns in an incident several years ago

An Illinois jury awarded more than $7 million to a Pennsylvania woman who said she was injured after a can of cooking spray suddenly ignited and exploded after releasing contents, in a case against Illinois-based Conagra Brands.

The jury in Cook County, Illinois, circuit court on Monday awarded plaintiff Tammy Reese $3.1 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages, according to court documents. 

According to Reese, she received burns on her face, forearms and hands in 2017. She said it happened while she worked in a kitchen in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. 

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In a statement, a Conagra spokesperson said the can in question is no longer in production and the company stands by its products, which are safe and effective when used correctly as instructed. The company said it is evaluating its options, including appeal.

Conagra logo

In this photo illustration a Conagra Brands logo is seen on a smartphone and a PC screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) ( Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Reese, who filed her lawsuit in 2019, claimed that the can of Swell brand cooking spray had a defective venting mechanism on the bottom that expelled highly flammable chemicals into the air and ignited. She was the first of 61 different plaintiffs who filed 56 separate cases filed against the food brand giant. 

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CAG CONAGRA BRANDS INC. 28.28 -0.13 -0.46%

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Reese’s lawsuit is one of more than 50 in state and federal courts around the country that plaintiffs’ firms Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder and Meyers & Flowers said they have filed over the cans, which are sold under PAM and other brands. The firms said it was the first verdict in any of their cases, which are not consolidated and are moving forward individually.

Judge's Gavel

Judge's gavel. (iStock / iStock)

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Pete Flowers of Flowers & Meyers told Reuters that several more trials are scheduled in state and federal courts next year.

Conagra Brands Inc

The case is Reese v. Conagra Brands et al., case number 2019L005068 in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Reuters contributed to this report.