$1.7 million payout over exploding whipped cream dispenser in France

The family of Rebecca Burger posted a photo on social media of the type of dispenser that killed her.
The family of Rebecca Burger posted a photo on social media of the type of dispenser that killed her.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM

MONTAUBAN, France (AFP, WASHINGTON POST) - A French court has awarded a million-euro payout to a woman whose skull was cracked by an exploding whipped cream dispenser, in a case echoing the death of a fitness blogger in June.

The woman's attorney, Emeline Petitgirard, said the sum was unusually large for France, where civil courts are "generally skittish" about big monetary awards "in the absence of death".

But the attorney said the case of Emilie Lada, who was 30 at the time, was particularly tragic - the "colossal" €1.09 million (S$1.7 million) sum is "for a life snatched away."

When the whipped cream cannister exploded in December 2013 it cracked Lada's skull, prompted intracranial bleeding and tore off part of her face.

"But the surgeons' work was quite astonishing and the disfigurement is now barely visible," Petitgirard told AFP.

However, Lada can no longer work and has lost her sense of taste and smell, she added.

According to the judgement, made public on Saturday, the court in the southern French town of Montauban found the cannister's importer F2J.com and its insurance provider AXA liable for the incident.

The damage award included €10,000 each to Lada's husband and their two children, aged three and six - as they were also in the kitchen with her.

AXA has appealed the decision, saying supermarket chain Auchan should bear some responsibility as it sold the canister.

The court disagreed, finding that Auchan was not liable because Lada could not produce a receipt proving her purchase.

It added, however, that Auchan had not put in place an effective alert system to warn their clients about the product, whose dangers have been known since March 2013.

A similar incident occurred in June when Rebecca Burger, a French Instagram star and well-known fitness blogger, died in eastern France after a dispenser exploded, hitting her in the chest.

France's National Consumer Institute (INC) had already issued a warning over the same type of cannister, used by the Ard'Time brand, saying the plastic lid may not be able to withstand pressure from carbon dioxide inside.

Burger’s death was announced on social media by her family, who warned of the potential risks of defective whipped cream dispensers. The post published on Burger’s Instagram page to her more than 150,000 followers read:

"Here’s an example of the cartridge/siphon for whipped cream that exploded and struck Rebecca’s chest, killing her. Take note: the cartridge that caused her death was sealed. Do not use this type of device in your home! Tens of thousands of these appliances are still in circulation."