More than 600 lawsuits were filed last week against Sterigenics, claiming that emissions from the company’s now-shuttered Willowbrook, Ill., ethylene oxide (EtO) plant caused health problems in people who lived or worked nearby.
The filings bring the total of personal-injury lawsuits against the Oak Park, Ill.-based company to more than 700, according to one of more than a dozen Chicago-area law firms that have filed lawsuits against Sterigenics; its parent company, Sotera Health; previous parent company Griffith Foods; current investor, private equity firm GTCR; and two managers.
The cases, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, claim that Sterigenics and others are responsible for causing leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancers, other cancers, miscarriages and other medical conditions.
“This case is one of the largest and most significant pursuits of justice in the history of Illinois, and indicates the scope of misconduct by Sterigenics and the other defendants over the last three decades,” said Antonio M. Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin, one of the Chicago law firms that has sued Sterigenics, in a news release. “It is heart–wrenching to see the number of people and families whose lives were forever changed by the toxic emissions.”
The newest complaints also incorporate a claim first made in 75 earlier lawsuits that Sterigenics and its parent companies began moving $1.3 billion of Sterigenics’ assets to investors beginning in 2016 when they learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would reclassify EtO from a “probable” to a “known” human carcinogen. That money will not be available to plaintiffs in these cases should they prevail, according to Romanucci & Blandin. The initial cases are pending in Cook County Circuit Court.
“Sterigenics empathizes with anyone battling cancer, but we are confident that operations at our Willowbrook facility are not responsible for causing the illnesses alleged in any lawsuit,” a company spokesperson said in an email to Medical Design & Outsourcing. “As we have stated previously, we intend to vigorously defend against the plaintiffs’ unfounded and meritless claims.”