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Pressure Cooker Sweet Potato Curry

A Nebraska woman recently filed a new pressure cooker lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. She names as defendants Tristar Products, Inc., which makes the Tristar Power Quick Pot pressure cooker, and parent company Spectrum Brands Holdings.

She seeks compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and all general damages she incurred after suffering serious injuries she claims were caused by the pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker Allegedly Explodes, Causing Second- and Third-Degree Burns

According to her complaint, the plaintiff bought the pressure cooker in April or May 2020. It became a staple in her home, and she used it according to Tristar’s instructions for the next three or four months without any issues.

Tristar distributes operating instructions to its consumers via the Power Quick Pot owner’s manual. These instructions tell the user that the cooker will beep when it finishes its cooking cycle. Once that happens, the user should move the steam release switch to “open.” This is supposed to release all the pressure from the pot before the user can open the lid.

Specifically, the manual says that if steam/pressure is coming out of the pressure-relief valve or the user’s hand is still holding the steam release switch in the Open position, the “lid will not slide to open.”

On July 17, 2020, the plaintiff claims she was using the cooker to cook a roast for her family. She had previously used it to make the same meal with the same ingredients. The cooker beeped when it was finished, so she opened the release valve. She waited for the steam to dissipate before easily opening the lid.

Unfortunately, the pressure cooker exploded, spewing hot steam and liquid onto her face, chest, and arms. She was rushed to the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) emergency room, where she was diagnosed with partial-thickness, full-thickness, second-degree, and third-degree burns.

She blames the defective design of the cooker for her injuries and points out specific flaws that make the cooker particularly dangerous for consumers.

Safety Features on Tristar Pressure Cooker Did Not Work as Expected

The plaintiff notes in her complaint that Tristar allegedly designed the cooker so that users could not open the lid while the unit was pressurized. A magnetic sensor monitors whether the lid is fully closed. The cooker beeps and displays “LID” on the monitor if that sensor detects that the lid is not closed.

Then once the lid is fully closed, the cooker begins heating and pressurizing. As the pressure increases, the steam pushes the floating valve up into a hole in the strike plate. The floating valve and strike plate are supposed to work together to lock the lid on the base while the unit is pressurized.

The plaintiff claims, however, that “excessive clearances in the locking pin mechanism and insufficient stiffness of the strike plate component” do not work as expected, and allow the lid to be easily removed at dangerously high pressures.

The plaintiff also notes that when the cooker finishes its cooking cycle, users can choose between a natural or rapid pressure release. Natural release permits the pressure to release on its own, and typically takes between 20-60 minutes.

Rapid release is faster. Tristar implemented a two-step security system to prevent the lid from being opened as long as there is still pressure in the unit. But this feature, as well, did not work as expected. Indeed, the plaintiff notes, the cooker remains easily openable even if the consumer is holding the steam release switch open.

Tristar should have known that this and other design defects would put consumers in danger, the plaintiff asserts. They should have done more to ensure the safety mechanisms would work as expected.

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