We all use standard kitchen appliances every day without incident. On the other hand, any of them can become dangerous at times. For example, glass baking dishes can explode or shatter if placed directly on a hot burner.
Occasionally, kitchen appliances cause injuries to the people who use them. Appliances such as coffeemakers, pressure cookers, toasters, microwaves, food choppers, mixers, and trash compactors can cause all sorts of injuries, from burns to severed fingers. When defects in products such as these are the direct cause of injuries to consumers, the manufacturer and/or seller may be liable for a consumer’s losses.
For example, the National Fire Protection Association reports that cooking equipment left unattended causes one in three of all fires; half of those are related to the use of fat and oil in cooking. Fires related to cooking equipment account for two out of every five fires that happen in the home. So, while a person might be quite used to cooking at home and feel comfortable in their kitchen, it pays to be constantly vigilant about the hazards that kitchen appliances present.
Pressure cookers are an example of a kitchen appliance that people use with great caution. Generally, they are safe to use to cook food more quickly and to sterilize jars for canning and preserving foods.
However, there have been events in which the lids explode off the pot portion of the cookers. This can happen if components are defective or safety mechanisms fail. The contents of the cooker fly out of it and can burn or injure anyone who is present in the vicinity.
The manufacturers of pressure cookers have issued recalls of their products when they learned that defects in them created a risk of harm to their customers. Some of them are related to risks of fire and electric shock. Examples of some pressure cooker recalls are as follows:
- Crock-Pot Recall. In 2020, over 914,000 Crock-Pot brand multi-cookers were recalled. A defect allowed the pressure cooker to pressurize even though the lid had not been fully locked. The company made design changes to the lid, so it appears as though a design defect in the lid was, in fact, the source of the problem.
- The company issued the recall after receiving almost 100 reports of injuries involving first, second, and third-degree burns;
- Breville Recall. Breville recalled over 35,000 of their pressure cookers when it was learned that a sealing gasket could be inserted upside down. This allows unexpected releases of pressure that build up in the pot. Of course, this could put people in the vicinity at risk of harm, especially from burns;
- Instant Pot. Double Insight recalled about 1,000 multi-cookers in 2015 because of a risk of electric shock and recalled about 104,000 multi-cookers in 2018 because of a fire hazard.
Even appliances that seem stable and reliable can malfunction. Two well-known retail distributors of home appliances had to recall hundreds of thousands of refrigerators, which posed a very unusual risk of choking. The defective part was the ice maker in the freezer compartment. A plastic arm that detected the ice level could detach from the refrigerator, break into pieces, and then fall into the ice bucket.
People would fail to notice them, put them in their drinks, and then choke on the pieces. In one case, the broken pieces caused lacerations in a person’s mouth.
Does the Manufacturer of a Kitchen Appliance Owe a Duty to Its Users?
The manufacturer of a kitchen appliance that is not inherently dangerous but that may become dangerous even when used as intended by the manufacturer owes a duty of care to see that it is reasonably fit for the purpose for which it is intended.
The duty of care may require the manufacturer to provide guards or shields to protect users from dangers presented by the exposed parts of the product. In addition, the duty of care requires a manufacturer of kitchen appliances to exercise care in all phases of the manufacturing and distribution process. This duty of care is to keep its product free of potentially dangerous defects.
For example, a manufacturer must use due care during the design phase of development of a kitchen appliance and avoid designing defects in the product from the beginning, such as what happened in the Crock Pot case above.
A manufacturer must also exercise its duty of care when its product is produced so that the product does not contain manufacturing defects. For example, faulty material introduced during the production process could make a product prone to failure of some kind.
The Breville recall may have been a case of a warning defect. The manufacturer and distributors of products have a duty to provide instructions for the safe use of their products and warnings about dangers from known risks. If a critical gasket could be inserted improperly, and this could lead to failure, then the manufacturer may have sold the product with a warning label defect.
If a product is defective and the defect causes an injury to a consumer, the injured victim can sue the manufacturer and distributor for damages to compensate them for both their economic and non-economic losses.
Are There Any Defenses to Strict Product Liability?
A manufacturer or distributor does have defenses to a claim for strict product liability. In addition to exercising a duty of care to avoid any unreasonable risk of harm to people who use the product as it was intended, a manufacturer must exercise care to avoid harm to anyone who is a foreseeable user of the product.
A manufacturer is generally not liable for injury caused by intentional misuse of a product. However, they may be liable because they have had the duty to foresee that an item may be used for a purpose different from that for which it was sold.
For example, there could be a manufacturer who can reasonably foresee that its product will fall into the hands of children, who, although unintended users, will misuse them. Because of this, said products cause harm to themselves and others, and the manufacturer has a duty to guard against unreasonable harm by designing a childproof product.
However, a manufacturer has no duty to deal in “perfect” or accident-proof products and is not required to design the safest possible product. In other words, a manufacturer cannot be held to a standard of guarding against all possible types of accidents and injuries in any way related to the design and manufacture of its products.
Additionally, a number of jurisdictions hold that a manufacturer has no duty to guard against obvious defects in a product. Therefore, a person injured by a kitchen appliance must show a latent defect that caused his or her injury.
A manufacturer may have a defense whenever a person voluntarily confronts an open and obvious condition, and a reasonable person in that position would recognize the condition and the risk. This is so even if a reasonable person would not appreciate the gravity of the harm threatened by the condition.
Should I Contact an Attorney About Injuries From Kitchen Appliances?
If you have been injured by a kitchen appliance, you should contact a class action lawyer immediately. LegalMatch.com can connect you to a lawyer who can review the facts of your case and determine if a product defect was the cause of your injury.
Proving your case can be difficult, but an attorney can help explain the law and assert your rights so that you can recover damages for your injuries.