More than 600 additional lawsuits filed against Sterigenics

  • Last Sepetember, Sterigenics announced it was closing its Willowbrook facility amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and activists from the area.

    Last Sepetember, Sterigenics announced it was closing its Willowbrook facility amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and activists from the area. Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News Illinois file photo

 
Updated 8/21/2020 7:02 PM

Sterigenics is facing a flood of new lawsuits related to ethylene oxide emissions from the medical sterilization facility in Willowbrook that shuttered last year.

A law firm announced Friday that more than 600 additional individual lawsuits have been filed alleging cancers, miscarriages and other health problems caused by the airborne carcinogen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It brings the number of cases pending in Cook County, some of which have been bundled, from an initial 75 to more than 700.

"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. It is heart wrenching to see the number of people and families whose lives were forever changed by the toxic emissions," said Antonio M. Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin LLC, the court-appointed lead counsel.

All of the new cases and the lawsuits previously on file were amended to include new allegations that Sterigenics was not alone in operating its Willowbrook facility.

Also named as a defendant is Griffith Foods, Sterigenics original parent company, which the plaintiffs' attorney say selected Willowbrook as the facility's location, created Sterigenics as a spinoff to their company, and then continued in the active operation and management of the facility until at least 1999. The newest complaints also incorporates the previous allegations against Sterigenics and its hedge fund backers, including claims that Sterigenics and parent company Sotera began funneling $1.3 billion of its assets to investors beginning in 2016.

Those funds, attorneys said, will no longer be available to provide justice to the victims in this case.

"The magnitude of the number of individual cases filed shows the devastating impact Sterigenics had on the Willowbrook community. But this is not about a large number of lawsuits, this is about individual people -- each of whom has suffered physical, emotional and financial hardship and, in too many cases, even death. They each deserve to have justice served," said one of the other attorneys suing Sterigenics, Patrick Salvi II of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.

The initial 75 plaintiffs' cases are pending before Cook County Circuit Judge Christopher E. Lawler. The additional 600+ individual cases have been assigned various judges in the same division and await their initial hearings.

On Friday, a Sterigenics representative released a statement saying, "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. As we have stated previously, we intend to vigorously defend against the plaintiffs' unfounded and meritless claims."

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