Cooking spray burn victim awarded $7.1 million in damages after can ‘exploded into a fireball’

A jury in Illinois has ordered Chicago-based Conagra Brands to pay $7.1 million to a Pennsylvania woman who was badly injured in 2017 when a can of commercial brand cooking spray ignited in a kitchen at her workplace and set her aflame.

The verdict, issued Monday in favor of Tammy Reese of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, is the first of numerous other cases from burn victims across the country with similar stories citing accidents that occurred with Conagra-made cooking spray brands, including its popular grocery store brand Pam.

Reese was working at a social club kitchen in May 2017 when “suddenly and without warning” a can of Swell cooking spray “exploded into a fireball, causing burns and injuries,” according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf. She suffered deep second-degree burns on her head, face, arms and hands, and scar tissue continues to constrict her movement six years later, according to one of her lawyers, Craig Smith.

Chicago-based Conagra Brands must pay out $3.1 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages to Reese, according to the Cook County Circuit Court verdict. Conagra Brands is the parent company of Pam and many other high-profile food brands including Marie Callender’s, Reddi-wip, Swiss Miss, Hunt’s, Chef Boyardee and Slim Jim.