LOS ANGELES - WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT:
At least 14 owners of the popular 'NutriBullet' blender are suing the company after they say their devices burst during use and left them with severe lacerations or painful burns, but the company is pushing back in a conversation with FOX 11.
The plaintiffs claim the NutriBullets cause heat and pressure to build up in the sealed vessel due to how quickly the blades spin, which heats up the contents and causes the container to burst from the rest of the machine.
Two of the plaintiffs in the Los Angeles area spoke out to FOX 11 to share their stories.
"This thing just chopped by hand to pieces pretty much," said Arcadia resident Brendan Cosso. "I was making it, went to grab it, the container exploded off, and my hand went right into the blades.
Cosso said he had been using the NutriBullet for years, but it burst after just about 20 seconds of use this past September while he was making a breakfast drink.
"The two blades basically chopped into my palm, still to this day, I can't feel my finger. "It hit a branch of my ulnar nerve, I've got a pretty high tolerance for pain, it was deep and the meat was kind of hanging out, I had to go get stitches," he said.
Sheryl Utal told FOX 11 she was a loyal NutriBullet user as well, until an incident this past May.
"I had my hands on it, like you normally do as you put it in and turn it to lock it in place, and it was on for maybe 15 to 20 seconds and it exploded," she said. "It spins so fast that it heats up the contents, the contents get under pressure, and the device explodes, so that hot liquid exploded onto me and created nasty burns.
Utal says she was left with second degree burns on her arms and chest as a result.
She and Cosso are two of at least twenty people who have filed lawsuits against NutriBullet.
Utal's lawsuit claims "The assembly blade detached from the canister, spraying the now scalding contents of the canister all over the plaintiff's face, arms, and chest". It describes "intense pain and burning from the scalding contents making contact with her body, and says the plaintiff "immediately went into shock."
Doug Rochen with ACTS Law is the attorney representing Cosso and Utal, and has filed a total of 22 lawsuits against Nutribullet on behalf of clients all over the country, as of Monday.
"This product really has no safety features at all," he said. "We represent one client whose dominant right hand was mutilated by the NutriBullet, she was making lunch for her husband, the unit, lid, vessel exploded, and it caused her hands to fall into the blade.
The photos of that client from Las Vegas are very graphic, and Rochen says she's had to undergo six surgeries since the incident.
Rochen claims that the problem with the NutriBullet is that it's a sealed vessel, meaning there's no way for pressure to escape, and there's no on off switch.
"It builds up pressure, and heat within the unit, which causes the body of the vessel to separate from the blade assembly like a rocket ship, and it explodes," he said.
But NutriBullet is pushing back against the allegations.
Mark Suzomoto, a corporate attorney for NutriBullet, told FOX 11 in a phone call that misuse of the Nutribullet is likely the explanation for any incidents of the devices bursting, and that the NutriBullet is designed to be sealed to protect the user's hands from the blades.
Suzumoto concedes that the NutriBullet can heat up its contents due to friction, but he told FOX 11 it's "physically impossible" for a NutriBullet to heat up enough to burst after just 15 to 20 seconds of use with cool or room temperature contents as Cosso and Utal are alleging.
Suzumoto pointed out that the NutriBullet manual warns users not to use the Nutribulet for longer than one minute due to potential heating issues, but admitted that those manuals have changed over the years to add more warnings and information after it was reported that customers were "misusing" the device, and the containers were separating.
Suzumoto said that millions of people use the NutriBullet without any issues, the company stands by its product, and that the people who are bringing lawsuits likely aren't telling the truth about their injuries.
For those reasons, NutriBullet is contesting the lawsuits filed by Rochen on behalf of his clients.
In response to Utal's case, NutriBullet filed motions to strike portions of her complaints on the grounds that they are irrelevant or improper, and they also filed a demurrer claiming that her allegations aren't sufficient enough to state a claim.
"NutriBullet has taken the position that it must be user error," Rochen said. "They are denying any responsibility for any of my client's injuries. They believe they are getting off by providing warnings in user manuals. Those warnings have changed over the course of the last several years to provide more information, but have not addressed the general safety concern involving this product.
Cosso told FOX 11 that his NutriBullet left him with permanent nerve damage in his hand, which is one reason why Rochen is calling on NutriBullet to make what he says would be a cheap and easy fix, the installation of a pressure relief plug.
"For a dollar a unit they could make these units safe, and they choose not to," Rochen said.
"You can't just allow something like this to be on the market without even caring or thinking about simple one dollar changes, fix it!," Cosso said.
But Suzumoto told FOX 11 the product already has adequate safety features, and the installation of such a plug would likely lead to customer complaints when the plug activates and displaces liquid all over their kitchens.
Suzumoto said that the NutriBullets are governed and certified under UL 982, that their products undergo rigorous standards, and that people need to learn to take personal responsibility for their own actions.
"Any product can present a risk," he said. "Like driving without a seat belt. What's alleged to have happened is physically impossible."
Statement from NutriBullet:
Customer safety and satisfaction are paramount at NutriBullet. Reports of blenders, which have operated normally for years, suddenly turning cool ingredients into scalding hot mixtures after less than 20 seconds of normal operation or components unthreading during use, are perplexing and contrary to the hundreds of millions of uses by satisfied NutriBullet customers worldwide. We will investigate the claims thoroughly and analyze the blenders in question to determine exactly what happened. Whatever the circumstances surrounding these accidents, we wish prompt and complete recoveries to those involved.
- Mark Suzumoto, NutriBullet corporate Attorney