In July 2023, the City Council of the City of Long Beach voted in a closed session meeting to settle a case arising from a 2021 incident at a city-run Silverado Lake summer camp, when a 7-year-old girl was badly burned and permanently scarred by a Cup Noodles soup. The child was represented by Benjamin T. Ikuta of Ikuta Hemesath LLP in the suit, which was filed in 2022 in Los Angeles Superior Court. The $300,000 settlement is entirely for the child’s pain and suffering.
Camp Employee Microwaved Cup Noodles Negligently
The complaint alleged that a Long Beach City employee at the camp was negligent when they poured water into a Cup Noodles soup and then boiled it in the microwave. The cup then leaked boiling water on the child, who suffered severe burns to her abdomen. The directions on Cup Noodles state that water should be boiled separately and then poured into the cup. Microwaving the cup itself increases the chance of the package deforming and causing injuries.
History of Burn Injuries Linked to Instant Soup Packaging
Cup Noodles and similar products are widespread and cheap, which makes them a common presence in homes across the country, and a common cause of burns. One survey of 15 burn centers estimated they saw about 600 children with serious burns from instant soups a year. Another study estimated that around 9500 children a year, as many as 25 a day, received burn injuries from instant soup incidents. These injuries take a long time to heal, are extremely painful, and can cause lifelong scarring and use impairments.
In 2013, a California mother sued Nissin Foods after her toddler son suffered burns, alleging that the design of the cup, with a narrow base and wider top, made it unstable and increased the risk of injury. Although the cup indicated that it should not be microwaved, there were no warnings about the risk of tipping.
In a similar suit in 2014, a North Carolina woman sued Maruchan Inc. and its parent company over burns her 1-year-old daughter suffered in 2011 after another child knocked over the soup cup. In that suit, the complaint alleged that the product’s design was defective. That case concluded in a confidential settlement in 2016.
This issue has also been highlighted by research journals, which recommended design changes as well as greater consumer education. In instant soup-related injury lawsuits, attorneys are likely to rely on this type of scientific evidence, as well as testimony from medical experts with burn injury specialties and packaging experts.
Burn Injuries are Extensive and Lifelong
Most food-related burns in children between 4-7 years old occur in the shoulder-to-groin area, where it can be particularly damaging because the skin is especially sensitive, and children’s skin is already thinner than adults. In 2023, a California mother posted on TikTok about her son, who suffered second-degree burns after spilling his instant noodles in his lap. Burn care specialists were using pig skin grafts to temporarily cover his burn wounds, a newer technique that can be used to protect the area until another skin graft is ready.
In the Long Beach incident, attorneys for the child said the scars to her abdomen are discolored and will be lifelong.
Product Warnings About Preparation
In the Long Beach City settlement, the issue was not the design or the manufacturer, but the negligence of the city employee who prepared the Cup Noodles for the camper. Some of the instant soup product design lawsuits list microwave-induced deformities as a design flaw, but the instructions on the Cup Noodles packaging do indicate that the cup should not be microwaved.
Taking Responsibility for Negligence
In approving the settlement, attorney Benjamin Akuta said the Long Beach City Council is taking responsibility for the child’s pain and suffering. Unfortunately, these incidents and injuries are far too widespread. A quick search for instant soup lawsuits reveals that many firms are taking these cases, but most claims result in confidential settlements, although at least one firm may be investigating a potential class action over instant soup design defects.