Sterigenics to pay $408M in ethylene oxide settlement

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Sterigenics will pay $408 million to settle more than 870 cases alleging that ethylene oxide from its Willowbrook, Illinois facility caused cancer and other health issues, according to a press release late Monday from Sterigenics’ parent company.

Sotera Health Company, the Cleveland-based parent company of Oak Brook-based Sterigenics said in a statement that “its subsidiaries have reached agreements to settle the more than 870 ethylene oxide (EO) cases pending against Sterigenics in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.”

Settlement of the claims is subject to substantially all of the plaintiffs agreeing to their individual settlement allocations and dismissing their claims with prejudice, the statement said. Completion of the agreements is expected to take from 90 to 120 days, according to the statement, which emphasized that the settlements are not an admission of any liability or “that emissions from the Willowbrook facilities ever posed any safety hazard to the surrounding communities.”

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Medical-sterilization company Sterigenics had already faced two trials over claims that its emissions caused cancer in residents near its plant in suburban Willowbrook.

In September 2022, a jury found Sterigenics liable for causing cancer in Willowbrook resident, Sue Kamuda, and ordered the company to pay her $363 million.

In November 2022, a Cook County jury ruled in favor of Sterigenics, concluding that the company bore no responsibility for cancer in plaintiff Teresa Fornek, who lived near the company’s plant in suburban Willowbrook.

Sterigenics uses a chemical known as ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. The Willowbrook plant closed in September 2019.

Many of the cases against Sterigenics came came about after a study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 found that people in the surrounding area faced high cancer risks linked to Sterigenics.

Sotera said the settlements would “provide a pathway to comprehensively resolve the claims pending against Sterigenics and Sotera Health LLC in Illinois,” allowing it to focus on its business and avoid the costs of  posting a large bond in connection with appealing the Kamuda verdict, as well as the time and expense of contesting “hundreds of additional  lawsuits through a multi-year process in the Illinois court system.”  

This story first appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business.

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