First, Her Instant Pot Annoyed Her. Then it Exploded.
C.A. learned from her father how to make meals stretch on a budget, especially during some lean times in their middle-class household. Both she and her father love to bake, especially bread, and C.A.’s kitchen skills served her well as a housewife with two growing boys in Massachusetts.
“I’m always game to try a new recipe,” C.A. says. “Different recipes, different techniques – there isn’t much that scares me.”
Despite that experience, C.A. admits she wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Instant Pot when she received one as a gift. She stored the box in the pantry, and there it sat, “this annoying piece of gadgetry,” for several months until, in spring 2019, C.A. started using her new appliance.
That summer, the leeks growing in C.A.’s garden arrived in abundance. She planned to make a large batch of a potato, leek, and white bean soup, and can the leftovers.
After dinner one night, C.A. reviewed a recipe she had found online and combined the ingredients in the pressure cooker, taking care not to fill the pot too high. She stepped away from the device and waited until the cooking cycle was complete. When she returned to the kitchen, C.A. was confident the soup was done and the Instant Pot was depressurized; she could see the float valve that indicates the cooker is locked had fallen.
She had just started rotating the lid when it popped off and her hot soup erupted everywhere, covering her chest, stomach, hands, and foot.
“It was like a soup bomb went off,” C.A. says.
Her husband heard screaming and ran to find out what had happened. C.A., crying from the intense pain, stripped her clothes and ran to the bathroom, where she discovered she could not even endure the feeling of standing under running water. As her husband drove to a CVS to buy over-the-counter burn treatment medication, C.A. saw bubbles developing on her burnt and discolored skin.
That night, C.A. hardly slept. Every slight movement irritated her fresh burns, and the feeling of any clothing against her skin only caused more pain.
“The next morning I was in tears,” she says. “I thought, this [pain] is worse than having babies.”
She put on a loose-fitting dress and headed for the emergency room, where doctors examined her third-degree burns. They debrided the wounds, a painful process of removing the dead skin, and one that C.A. would come to despise in the coming weeks. (“It felt like they were skinning me, pretty much.”) Medical professionals wrapped C.A.’s torso “like a mummy,” with bandages extending from her chest to her hips.
C.A. needed to take time off from her part-time job working in a school cafeteria kitchen. When she did return, the other employees took on physical tasks and C.A. worked the register. Moving still caused pain on her burn spots.
At home, C.A.’s husband and her sons picked up the slack on the cooking and cleaning tasks she would normally do. C.A. struggled with the stationary new role forced upon her by her burn injury.
“It was a lot of doing nothing, and I’m not a do-nothing kind of person,” she says.
As her blisters slowly healed, leaving permanent scars, C.A. and her husband wondered if they should take action against Instant Brands, the Canadian manufacturer of Instant Pot. She’d never sued anyone, nor even considered it, but Greg thought the company should be held responsible for what its product had done to his wife.
C.A. was angry that she had abided by the rules of the Instant Pot, read the manufacturer instructions, and followed a recipe. In the end, all she had to show for her precaution was pain and scarring.
C.A. opted to leave the decision to experts, contacting attorneys at Johnson//Becker and asking if her situation merited a potential lawsuit. It did, and a civil Complaint was filed in June, alleging that the Instant Pot “suffers from serious and dangerous defects” that causes injuries like C.A.’s. C.A. is one of more than 80 burn victims to retain Johnson//Becker to seek compensation from Instant Brands.
She is surprised, though, that the company retains such a sterling reputation, especially in the online community. C.A. is ready to tell anyone, including strangers, about her own horrific experience using the bestselling pressure cooker on the market. One family member who purchased an Instant Pot soon got rid of theirs after hearing C.A.’s story.
“There isn’t enough of a warning out there,” she says. “It’s supposed to be this time-saving wonderful product for people who don’t have time to cook. But it’s not safe. It’s not fair that someone is going into it thinking this is a safe, sound, product. It’s not.”
She Talked up the Instant Pot – Then it Burned Her.
B.M. didn’t just like the Instant Pot. She was an evangelist.
For the past decade, B.M. has taught a class on lifestyle medicine, with the emphasis on helping students switch to a healthier diet based on vegetables and complex carbohydrates. She’d made the same move herself, and the electric pressure cooker made it seem simple.
“Switching to a plant-based diet is not easy,” B.M. says. “There are no fast food restaurants for a diet of plant-based foods.”
In her classes, B.M. would demonstrate how beans and grains were prepared more simply and far faster with an Instant Pot than on the stove.
“I was looking for something efficient and quick, because a lot of people don’t have a lot of time on their hands,” B.M. says. “It was perfect for those classes.”
At home, B.M. had owned at least one Instant Pot for six years; she would eventually collect four of them. These she used for batch cooking, preparing food that could be portioned, frozen, and reheated for weeks. One night in May 2020, she went to check on a pot of lentils. She touched the lid, which immediately exploded off the Instant Pot into her hand.
Scalding hot lentils and liquid exploded everywhere in the kitchen, and hit B.M. in the arm, chest, and stomach. Only the popped-off lid protected her face from getting splattered.
B.M. ripped off her soaked shirt and examined her burning skin. She called a nurse line and described her arm, which appeared scalded throughout. The nurse raised the possibility of nerve damage, and suggested she go to the hospital.
“This was the middle of the pandemic,” B.M. says. “I thought, ‘…I don’t want to go to a hospital.’ I was terrified.”
She followed the nurse’s instructions, and doctors found a small patch of healthy skin on the back of her arm which would eventually allow the swelling elsewhere to reduce. By this time, shock had worn off, and B.M. was in excruciating pain.
She was back in the emergency room 10 days later after a reaction to pain medication. She also endured weeks of her skin peeling and blistering. B.M. recalls standing in a restaurant takeout line to receive her food, when she realized her shirt was soaking from a burst blister.
It took weeks before she was comfortable in clothes, or felt well enough to go back to the gym.
As for her classes, B.M. felt some guilt thinking back at how often she had explicitly recommended students buy an Instant Pot for home use. “I had encouraged a ton of people that I know, who have bought them over the years,” B.M. says. “I feel like I need to contact them all and say, ‘Don’t use it!’”
The real liable party in B.M.’s story is Instant Brands, manufacturer of the Instant Pot. B.M. has become one of dozens of Johnson//Becker clients to take legal action against the most popular electric pressure cooker on the market. Her Complaint highlights just how often the Instant Pot was marketed as safe to use, claims her lawsuit says “are not just misleading, they are flatly wrong.”
B.M. knew those claims well, and had often found herself repeating them to a room full of people.
“I taught lots of classes that worried, ‘Well, don’t those things explode?’” she says. “And I told them that once it’s under pressure, they will not explode. It’s locked down. That’s what I was taught, that’s what all the materials I had seen said. I felt very safe with it, very confident that it wasn’t going to explode.”
Until she didn’t.
“I used to think the product was helpful. Obviously, now I think differently.”
She Wanted a Bella Pressure Cooker. Soon, she Needed a New Tattoo.
K.G. is used to reaching into a hot oven.
K.G. spent most of a decade working in catering with a bakery, and estimates she made at least one birthday or wedding cake per week on the side. Now a house parent for a foster facility for girls in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, K.G. is still comfortable operating a busy kitchen. Her three kids and grandchildren regularly come over for Sunday night dinners, where K.G. cooks for 10 or more guests.
In fall 2018, K.G. tried taking advantage of a shortcut in the kitchen. Her sister-in-law, who had boasted of how her Bella pressure cooker saved hours on the cook time of roasted meats, gave K.G. one of her own as a present.
“She said it was quick and easy,” K.G. says.
And K.G. agreed, at first, making a singlebatch of beef short ribs that came together nicely. She tried the Bella cooker again about a week later, and her results were popular enough that guests requested seconds.
While the Bella cooked away, K.G. began heating up a pot of tea on the stove for tea. She was reaching to grab the hot water when she made contact with the pressure cooker next to it.
“It was a soft touch,” she says. “Suddenly the top came off, like, into the air, and the meat did, too.”
K.G.’s then-husband and their dining company ran to find her recovering from the scary incident. At first, she downplayed her injuries, saying she was mostly “blown away by the noise” of the explosion. When she went to remove her shirt, K.G. saw cause for concern.
“I have dark skin, so if red shows up on me, I’m burnt,” she says. “My skin turned a burgundy red color almost instantly.”
K.G. was in intense pain all through the night, and her skin soon swelled and bubbled. She was still in agony when she went to a burn center the next morning.
“If the pain could be something over 10 [out of 10], it was over 10,” she says. “Putting on a seatbelt, clothes, a bra, everything hurt.”
The injury required multiple trips for medical treatment and frequent cleaning and rewrapping of the sensitive area. K.G.’s burns to her torso were significant enough to obscure a tattoo she’d had drawn in honor of her mother, who loved ladybugs. Later, she would get another tattoo, this one of roses and leaves, to color over the scars left by her severe burn injury.
K.G. says she was interested in retaining Johnson//Becker for legal representation within a week of her injury, which she blamed entirely on the poor design and construction of her Bella pressure cooker.
“I thought, this thing is defective,” she says. “It should take a hell of a blow to get that top off. If that lid came off from under this lock, there had to be something wrong.”
The lawsuit she filed through Johnson//Becker cites Bella’s claims of an “extremely safe and secure locking system,” one meant to prevent exactly the catastrophe that happened in her kitchen. The Complaint she filed against manufacturer Sensio Inc. alleges the company was “negligent in the designing, manufacturing, advertising, marketing, distributing and selling” of her Bella pressure cooker.
These days, K.G. doesn’t want any risk or loud noises in the kitchen. For the most part, she’s back to cooking in the oven. Even if it’s slower and less convenient, it feels safer.
“I could maybe break my wrist taking something out [of the oven],” she says, laughing. “But I’m done with [pressure cookers], I don’t even want one anymore. I think that could happen again. It’s really a lot of pressure, and it’s dangerous.”
She Rebuilt Her Body. Then a Crock-Pot Pressure Cooker Ruined Everything.
A few years ago, T.E. decided she wanted to look and feel different.
Over the course of a year, through an intense workout routine and changed eating habits, she lost 90 pounds. T.E. was proud of her new strength, and how she looked in clothes. She had worked hard for her new body.
That period of renewed self-confidence came to a halt one night in 2019, as T.E. went to prepare a meal using her Crock-Pot pressure cooker. T.E. had purchased the device after seeing numerous ads on television. As promised, the cooker managed to slash the cooking time on beans, a favorite of T.E.’s family.
“I loved it,” she says of her pressure cooker. “It worked great.”
Until it didn’t. On this night, as T.E. prepared other dishes to be served along with the beans, the lid to her Crock-Pot suddenly and violently exploded off. The lid flew with such force that it bounced off the ceiling and hit T.E. in the face.
The scalding hot and pressurized beans had also erupted, making a mess, including on T.E.. An admitted ‘neat freak’, she made cleaning the kitchen her first priority. Only later would T.E. be told that she had gone into shock, and could not fully feel the pain of the burns to her chest.
As the pain set in, T.E. went to visit her mother, who insisted on calling 911. T.E. was taken to a burn unit in Atlanta, about a half-hour from her home in Conyars.
“By that time, I was in severe pain,” says T.E.. “The pain medications they gave me, I would be praying that they would kick in.”
After a couple painful days of bed rest, T.E. returned home. For months, her daily routine of working as a house cleaner and exercising was replaced with repeated cleanings and redressing of her wounds.
Perhaps just as bad, the discoloration and subsequent scarring had hit T.E. in a point of personal pride.
“Bodybuilding was something I was proud of,” T.E. says. “It made me feel confident. With this happening, and the scars… there was probably a year that went by where I didn’t want to show my chest.”
T.E. says it wasn’t until she talked to a friend that she considered hiring an attorney.
In fact, about a year after T.E. was injured, Crock-Pot recalled 900,000 of its pressure cookers, citing the risk of unsecured lids and steaming explosions exactly like what happened to her. At the time of the recall, there were at least 119 incidents of exploding Crock-Pot pressure cookers, with 99 injuries related to those incidents.
T.E. is among dozens of victims who have retained Johnson//Becker attorneys to take legal action against Crock-Pot’s parent company, Sunbeam. She still uses a slow cooker made by the same company, but would never touch the pressure cooker that scarred her.
T.E. learned at least a couple things from her kitchen nightmare. First, she will never use another pressure cooker, and wishes Crock-Pot’s version had never even hit the market.
And second, some things are simply worth the wait.
“I feel like if something like this could happen, you should just do the old school way of making your beans, even if takes forever.”
After Her Power Pressure Cooker Exploded, the Beach is Just a Memory
S.F. grew up a “beach bum,” an easy lifestyle to take on as a kid in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles.
As an adult, S.F. still sought sunshine. An ordained minister and frequent counselor to troubled youth, she has often taken at-risk adolescents on outdoors excursions as a bonding experience.
These days, S.F. doesn’t feel like getting into a swimsuit. In fact, she hardly feels like leaving the house.
“As much as I used to be outgoing, I have panic attacks about going outside,” S.F. says.
The dramatic shift can be traced back to a day in September, 2020, when S.F. set about preparing a seafood soup the day before her birthday. S.F. grew up cooking with her mother, who had an open-door policy with hungry kids in the neighborhood, and has herself cooked for hundreds of people in various catering, restaurant, or charity settings.
“Give me any kind of dish, I can cook it,” she says.
S.F. prepared her birthday soup in her Power Pressure Cooker, which she had ordered after seeing an infomercial on television. S.F. had prior experience with pressure cookers, and knew how effective they were at cutting down cooking time on certain dishes. For some time, her Power Pressure Cooker fulfilled this role as expected.
S.F. remembers being so excited about the smell coming from the pressure cooker that she was literally skipping through the kitchen., The cooker exploded, its top flying off and the steaming-hot soup flying everywhere, including onto S.F.
“It happened so fast,” S.F. remembers. “I’m just glad I was able to turn my face.”
The next thing she knew, S.F. was on the other side of the room in excruciating pain, especially to one of her legs. She screamed and screamed, and her elderly godfather found her in severe distress and barely able to speak.
When emergency responders arrived, they cut S.F.’s pant leg off and saw that her burned skin was sticking to the pants, a sight that surprised even the paramedics. S.F., who is immunocompromised, was terrified to go to an emergency room during the COVID pandemic, but was given no choice.
At the hospital, doctors diagnosed second- and third-degree burns.
“They had three doctors working on me,” she says. “I didn’t realize until that moment how serious things were.”
Today, some two years later, S.F. says she’s still recovering from the burn injuries to her stomach and legs. Her skin is tender to the touch, and the scarring to her leg is significant and easily visible. Due to the risk of sun exposure, S.F. can no longer wear a swimsuit when she goes to a pool or beach. She wouldn’t want to, anyway.
“It looks like snakeskin,” she says. “I don’t feel good or sexy about the situation, as a woman.”
S.F. feels compelled to wear leggings even in bed, something she never would have done before she was burned.
“I don’t feel free,” she says. “I should feel that, but I don’t. I don’t feel beautiful.”
In promotional videos like the one that persuaded S.F., the Power Pressure Cooker is marketed as “loaded with safety features” and “extremely safe” to use. S.F. says prior to her accident, she wasn’t even aware pressure cookers could malfunction like this. Only after, as she did her research, did she realize what happened to her was more common than most people think.
S.F. feels that Tristar, the manufacturer of her Power Pressure Cooker, didn’t do its due diligence to make sure her appliance was safe for her home use. She says the company still markets its products to her. She’s not interested.
“It was more important for them to sell products, without telling people they were endangered,” she says. “They’re still making money.”
S.F. says she did not hesitate to find legal representation with Johnson//Becker to take action against the company responsible for her injuries. She first contacted the firm on her birthday, just one day after suffering her injuries.
“It was not a question,” S.F. says of her decision to retain legal counsel. “People need to know it’s OK to say you’ve been harmed, and to take the right steps to claim your rightful place in justice.”
In selecting Johnson//Becker, S.F. retained a firm that has handled more than 500 pressure cooker cases, including over 100 people injured by a Power Pressure Cooker. In a lawsuit filed last week, S.F. and her attorneys allege her pressure cooker was “defectively designed and manufactured,” and “unreasonably dangerous.”
S.F. looks back on her carefree beach days with a mixture of nostalgia and grief.
“I get sad thinking about it,” she says. “I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to do that anymore.”
She Feared Old Pressure Cookers, but it Was a NuWave NutriPot That Burned Her
G.O. remembers her grandmother’s old fashioned stovetop pressure cooker, and how nervous it made her. Any time the cooker was in use, G.O. kept a wary eye on it.
The new generation of electric pressure cookers was supposed to take all that jittery uncertainty out of the equation. G.O. received her NuWave pressure cooker as a gift, and one she appreciated at first.
“I thought it was awesome,” G.O. says. “The first time I made firecracker chicken, it was quick, juicy, and good. It was everything everybody said, convenient and easy.”
A later attempt at making the same dish went horribly wrong. After the timer went off, G.O. manually released the pressure repeatedly to ensure the NuWave was no longer under pressure. She knew that, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, she would not be able to open it if the unit was still pressurized.
As G.O. went to turn the lid, it exploded off, spewing its scalding contents into the air and all over G.O.. Hot liquid pooled G.O.’s shirt and bra and against her skin.
“That’s when I realized how bad it really was,” G.O. says.
Within 10 minutes, her shock wore off and the pain of her burn became intense. She went to a hospital, where a nurse asked for G.O. to assess her pain.
“I remember saying, I know y’all want me to say a 10 out of 10, but it’s more like 30 or 40,’” G.O. says. “I was shaking, it was so bad.”
The treatment for G.O.’s injuries was also extremely painful. She went through so many bandages and wrapping material recovering from her injury that she and her husband could not find any within a 25 mile radius.
Though she worked a desk job, G.O. found returning to work also hurt. Just sitting and typing at a computer was difficult. She had trouble sleeping.
“Mentally, it messed me up in a bad way,” G.O. says.
A friend who heard G.O.’ story said they had heard of a pressure cooker explosion happening to someone in Oregon months before. She learned that people who had been similarly injured retained a lawyer to file suit against manufacturers.
“That product is not supposed to do that, it’s supposed to be a safe product,” she says.
When G.O. learned no local lawyers had experience handling cases like hers, she started online research that eventually led her to Johnson//Becker. In her subsequent lawsuit against NuWave, G.O. and her attorneys highlight the sheer number of safety claims NuWave has made, including in its owner’s manual and in marketing. In one appearance on QVC, a presenter referenced a so-called “Sure-Lock System” and said:
“Once this [lid] is locked down, it is locked down. You don’t have to worry about [the] pressure cooker blowing up or anything like this.”
Around Christmas time last year, G.O. was walking through a Walmart when her shopping companion gestured to an aisle in the home goods section.
G.O. saw a row of pressure cooker after pressure cooker. She didn’t even want to walk down it.
“I used to bake and cook a lot,” she says. “Since the accident, I haven’t cooked in three years. I wouldn’t even drain pasta water. I’m scared.”