- Sterigenic agreed to pay $408 million to settle more than 870 ethylene oxide cases without admitting liability.
- The settlement covers all claims related to alleged emissions of ethylene oxide from Sterigenic’s former facility in Willowbrook, Illinois. People living near the medical device sterilization site alleged personal injuries including cancer and wrongful death.
- In September, a jury awarded a single plaintiff $358.7 million. Sotera Health, Sterigenics’ parent company, planned to “vigorously challenge” the damage awards but now has decided to settle.
The September ruling in favor of cancer survivor Susan Kamuda set a precedent that suggested the more than 870 cases brought against Sterigenics in Illinois could be costly for the company. In June, a court dismissed plaintiffs’ ultrahazardous activity and strict liability claims and denied the remainder of the motions. Still the cases that later came to trial showed the risks to Sterigenics.
Two cases came to trial last year. Kamuda won damages, but in November the jury in the case of Teresa Fornek decided in favor of Sterigenics and its parent company. With two more cases set to come to trial this year, Sterigenics has decided to settle rather than risk more Kamuda-size payouts.
“Sterigenics maintains that its Willowbrook operations did not pose a safety risk to the community in which it operated and believes the evidence and science ultimately would have compelled the rejection of the plaintiffs’ claims, as occurred in the Teresa Fornek trial,” Sotera Health said in a statement.
“However, years of biased media coverage in the greater Chicago area, the significant costs of posting a large bond in support of the appeal of the Kamuda verdict and the time and expense that would have been required to continue to contest hundreds of additional lawsuits through a multi-year process in the Illinois court system led us to conclude that resolving the pending Willowbrook [ethylene oxide] cases would be in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders,” the company wrote.
The deal will happen if almost all plaintiffs — between 95% and 100% of those in three groups of claims — opt in to the agreement. If that occurs, Sterigenics will be able to put the Illinois cases behind it, although it will still face legal challenges related to ethylene oxide emissions in Georgia and New Mexico.
Shares of Sotera Health were little changed in morning trading on Wednesday.