Sterigenics reaches $408M agreement to settle 800+ cases, parent company says

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Sterigenics reaches $408M settlement agreement: parent company
The Sterigenics Willowbrook facility allegedly released a cancer-causing waste. Sotera Health said the company reached a $408M settlement agreement.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The parent company of Sterigenics said a $408 million agreement has been reached to settle more than 870 pending cases against Sterigenics.

SEE ALSO | Sterigenics trial jury reaches $363M verdict in favor of woman who sued Willowbrook company

Sterigenics is accused of illegally releasing a cancer-causing waste into the air at its Willowbrook facility, which permanently closed in 2019.

"What that means is that the settlement will stick, and Sterigenics will go forward with it if some critical mass of plaintiffs join the settlement," ABC7 Chicago legal analyst Gil Soffer said. "It's typical for a company when it settles, really for anybody when they settle, to say, 'look, we're gonna pay you, but we're not going to admit we did anything wrong.'"

"To continue to litigate 800-plus lawsuits independently and separately takes a long time," Soffer added. "It does a lot of damage to a company's reputation.

Under the terms of the agreement, each plaintiff would get an offer based on their specific case, and nearly all of those suing would have to sign on. Furthermore, Sterigenics does not admit liability, and in fact the company continues to maintain that "its Willowbrook operations did not pose a safety risk to the community."

That statement has been disputed by those involved in the fight against them from the beginning.

The Stop Sterigenics group said in a statement, "We expect nothing less from a company that has shown a blatant disregard for human life and specifically the value of the lives of the people in our community.

"As we are not involved in the litigation, we support the victims in whatever decisions they make."

"They knew what was going on. They have the capabilities and the technologies to reduce emissions and they chose not to," said Sri Rao of Stop Sterigenics. "Our kids had to spend a year with EPA collection canisters set up around the playground and in the school building collecting information and data about how toxic their air was."

In a separate but nearly identically worded statement issued Tuesday, two of the largest law firms representing more than 600 plaintiffs said, "Our hope is that hundreds of deserving families will soon be fairly compensated under this agreement and will avoid both the uncertainty of trial and the risk that their cases might be delayed for years, if not decades."

Soffer said there were many good reasons for the company to choose this path.

"To continue to litigate 800-plus lawsuits independently and separately takes a long time. It costs a lot of money. It does a lot of damage to a company's reputation, so if they can put this to bed in one fell swoop, it's very good for them," Soffer said.

Last year, a jury awarded a cancer survivor $363 million.

If the settlement offer is ultimately agreed upon by a majority of the existing plaintiffs, Sterigenics has agreed to pay out the $408 million dollars by May 1.

RELATED | Sterigenics lawsuit: Cases against medical sterilization company can be tried in groups, judge says