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Pressure Cookers Remain Popular, but Lawsuits Piling Up

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In late November 2017, CNBC reported that sales of pressure cookers, particularly the Instant Pot, were surging. The products were listed as out-of-stock with Wal-mart, and weren’t showing up in searches on Kohl’s, though they were still available on Amazon and Best Buy. “Multicooker sales are surging this year,” the report stated, noting that they grew 68 percent in the 12 months ending in October 2017.

The Statistics Portal states that retail sales of electric pressure cookers amounted to about $54.01 million in 2016 alone. Yet many of these cookers don’t perform as expected, particularly when it comes to safety features, like lids that are supposed to stay closed until all the pressure has been released.

Home Chefs Filing Lawsuits After Being Burned by Pressure Cookers

In December 2017, the Daily Hornet reported on one Tristar pressure cooker lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of six plaintiffs who were seriously injured while using the cookers in their homes. The cooker was advertised as having built-in safety features, including a “lid safety lock” that was supposed to prevent the lid from being opened when there was still pressure inside the pot, but these plaintiffs say that the lock didn’t work.

One Texas woman, for example, was making beans and sausage for dinner. When the timer went off signaling the dinner was done, she twisted the valve to de-pressurize the cooker, and when the steam stopped, she started twisting the lid. It loosened, so she assumed it was safe to open the cooker. Soon after, the pressure cooker pot exploded, sending scalding hot food onto the woman’s chest, neck, and arms. She suffered serious burns.

Food inside a pressure cooker can reach temperatures of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be very dangerous for home chefs. Pressure cookers work by building up steam heat inside a locked pot. As the temperature rises, the pressure does too, and that allows the heat to penetrate the food much more quickly. Foods cooked in a pressure cooker not only cook faster, but tend to stay moister than foods cooked with other methods. Families are drawn to them because they allow the cooking of wholesome foods in less time, but they also rely on the products’ safety features to prevent explosion and burn accidents.

Tristar Aggressively Advertised Safety Features

In another lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania, another six plaintiffs claimed that they were seriously injured by Tristar pressure cookers. They alleged that the cooker’s “built-in safety features” didn’t work as expected and that the manufacturers should have been aware of these defects.

The plaintiffs also stated Tristar aggressively markets their pressure cookers as “state of the art kitchen science” that allows consumers to cook family-style meals “with just the push of a button” and “in a fraction of the time” it takes with other kitchen devices.

The company has also stated that “there is no safer way to cook,” and has used social media websites like YouTube to promote professional chef endorsements. In one of those videos, culinary expert Eric Theiss states that the cooker is easy and versatile, and adds that “when your pressure cooker is up to pressure, the lid locks on. I couldn’t get this lid to open if I wanted to.”

The plaintiffs argue that Tristar’s representations about safety aren’t just misleading, “they are flatly wrong.”

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