Consumers have begun to file product liability claims over alleged pressure cooker defects, saying the common kitchen appliances can explode suddenly, causing severe burn injuries. A host of different manufacturers have been hit with allegations of selling defective and dangerous products - including Fagor America, the company behind Casa Essentials and Rapid Express pressure cookers.
Fagor America is a company based in Lyndhurst, New Jersey - the US wing of Spain's Fagor Group. The Fagor Group is "one of the world's largest manufacturers of household appliances," according to a Fox News report.
Fox highlighted Fagor, and the company's recent financial woes, shortly after executives at the Spanish appliance giant learned that at least one of their pressure cookers had been used to carry out the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. At the time, Fagor was seeking a 60 million Euro loan to repay the company's growing number of creditors.
While Fagor manufactures everything from dishwashers to wine coolers, the company's focus remains on pressure cookers. Claiming prominence as "the most well-known pressure cooker brand on the market," Fagor America manufactures pressure cookers under six different brand names:
Pressure cookers branded as "Cayenne" and "Futuro" are listed as discontinued on Fagor America's website. A pressure cooker sold under the brandname "Nutrimaster," which is marketed in the US by Farberware, also appears to be manufactured by Fagor. In one incident report, a home cook describes being told to contact Fagor after the pressure indicator of his Nutrimaster pressure cooker "blew out of the pressure cooker lid."
Consumers have reported explosions with nearly every pressure cooker manufactured by Fagor, but the company's Casa Essentials pressure cookers appear to be implicated in the vast majority of incidents.
Walmart lists the Casa Essentials pressure cooker as "no longer available," as does Macy's. On Amazon, the company's 5-quart Casa Essentials Aluminum Pressure Cooker is only available through third-party sellers. In short, Fagor's Casa Essentials pressure cookers appear to have been taken off the market, although there has been no company announcement to this effect.
Customer reviews posted to Amazon.com, however, are illuminating:
The Casa Essentials pressure cooker comes equipped with an "auto-locking mechanism," so consumers shouldn't be able to open the cooker's lid until all of the pressure has been released. Many home cooks, however, report that the pressure cooker's lid sealing mechanisms appear to be defective - either making removal of the lid entirely impossible or blowing off at a moment's notice.
The pressure cooker's gasket has also been labeled "faulty." Intended to secure an air-tight seal between the cooker's pot and lid, Fagor's gasket seems completely ineffective. As Yangyi Chen wrote on December 28, 2011, "it releases all the steam at once before the valve starts releasing extra pressure. Luckily when this first happened, we weren't right next to the cooker or the steam could've burned us." In other cases, the pressure cooker's silicone gasket has broken within months of purchase.
The government consumer safety watchdog SaferProducts.gov has received multiple reports of explosions occurring with Fagor-made pressure cookers.
In a report dated July 21, 2015, a 55-year-old man blames an apparent failure of his Casa Essentials pressure cooker for causing first- and second-degree burns. In an event that he says led to emergency room treatment, the man says:
"After cooking[,] I waited for about 20 - 30 minutes and pulled off the regulator to check for any residual pressure. There was no steam released and no sound of steam. I then opened the pressure cooker and[,] as I did so, it exploded, and the stew contents hit my chest, neck and face which left me with first and second degree burns. I sought medical attention immediately."
The reporter continues, attempting to explain the accident's cause: "apparently the locking mechanism which should have prevented me from opening the cooker while under pressure did not function. I did not have to use force to open the cooker. It opened easily."
In a 2013 report, a man describes the severe injuries inflicted on his wife after one of Fagor's Elite brand pressure cookers unexpectedly exploded off the stove:
"She was using the pressure cooker to cook lentils. The pressure cooker was on the stove building pressure for 7 minutes and it flew off the stove and emptied its contents via the vent valve. The pressure cooker was half full when she started the cooking process[.] When I opened it, the cooker was empty."
After administering first-aid to his wife, the reporter says he contacted Fagor America "to see if they can explain how this happened."
On March 6, 2013, a 51-year-old woman reports being severely burned when a Casa Essentials pressure cooker blew up during use:
"A Casa Essentials pressure cooker exploded. Steam and hot water splashed all over face, arms and shoulders, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns."
After receiving emergency medical treatment, the woman attempted to contact Fagor - "but got no response."
In a report submitted on April 5, 2012, a 30-year-old man recounts the explosion of a Fagor pressure cooker that left him burned:
"I bought a Casa Essentials pressure cooker. I cooked on it a couple of times and it was okay. The third time, the steam and water exploded out of the cooker and I burned myself with the hot water gushing out of the pressure cooker. Thankfully it did not get in my eyes [-] otherwise, I could have been blinded."
The man says he received first aid for his injuries.
In a February 4, 2013 report, Fagor America's Rapida pressure cooker makes an appearance. In his report, a 49-year-old man writes:
"My two-year-old Rapida pressure cooker exploded (seal broken).
There are two reasons why I want to report this incident. First, I believe that the cooker wasn't designed properly. Its safety valve should have prevented the incident [...] by releasing the steam pressure, or a stronger seal needs to be used.
Second, I believe there is a design flaw in the location of the safety valve which is bundled together with the normal steam outlet. This design can prevent people from telling if the steam is [coming] from the normal outlet or the safety release valve. Because of the design flaw, it's very hard for most users to tell the difference between steams released from the safety valve and from the normal valve. As a result, it's impossible for most users to tell when the safety valve is open and when to remove the heat from the cooker. If the steam is [coming] out [of] the safety valve, users would be able to identify the problem in time and remove the heat to avoid [an] explosion."
The man says he reported the incident to the manufacturer. While the company requested more information, the reporter says he "never heard from them again" after submitted the requested details.
On the company's website, Fagor boasts of the Rapida pressure cooker's "triple safety features," including a dual pressure control valve and two independent over-pressure release valves. According to the manufacturer, a "safety locking handle prevents accidental opening under pressure."
In another report, filed on December 12, 2014, a 54-year-old woman describes a near-miss incident that could have resulted in severe burns:
"About 30 minutes ago, I was making some turkey stock. My stock had been under pressure for about 40 minutes when I heard an awful shrieking sound and ran downstairs to find stock all over the kitchen and a missing pressure indicator mechanism. Looks like it literally blew up. Had any of us been in the kitchen, we would have been scalded." [Emphasis added].
The woman also notes that, under specific circumstances, the pressure cooker's malfunction could have started a serious fire.
In a September 2, 2014 report, a 53-year-old man describes an explosion involving Fagor America's Rapid Express brand pressure cooker:
"the pressure cooker exploded on the stove while I was cooking bean soup; spewing hot bean soup in a 4 ft radius around the pressure cooker."
Thankfully, no injuries were sustained in the accident.
In a report filed on May 8, 2012, a 49-year-old man describes two close-calls involving a Casa Essentials pressure cooker:
"Last Saturday, [...] my wife was cooking some bean soup and we were [a] few feet away from the stove and pressure cooker. After like 10 minutes[,] suddenly steam [sprayed] with high velocity and touched my hand[,] as well as my wife's feet. We were lucky that we were [a] few feet away and the steam became cool and we could [save] oursel[ves] from being burned. It could also cause fire [on] the stove and fire could spread all over. [The] same event occurred [two days later], when my wife was cooking some chicken soup."
After denouncing the pressure cooker as "not at all safe for consumer use," the husband requests "a thorough investigation" of the product.
Manufacturers have a legal duty to produce safe products - ones that don't place users directly in harm's way. But many consumers believe that Fagor America's pressure cookers are unreasonably dangerous, prone to exploding at a moment's notice with little warning. While no recent claims have been filed against Fagor America, injured consumers are urged to contact an experienced attorney immediately. Significant financial compensation may be available.