Ethylene Oxide/Sterigenics Updates

Collins Law Partner Shawn Collins Helps Negotiate $408 Million Settlement for Cancer Victims

Sterigenics-2-300x192Attorney Shawn Collins, founder and partner of The Collins Law Firm in Naperville, Illinois, was instrumental in forging a $408 million settlement of the cancer claims of more than 800 plaintiffs in In re Willowbrook Ethylene Oxide Litigation, venued in Illinois State Court (Cook County). The claims arose after a federal government report announced in 2018 for the first time that a sterilization plant in Willowbrook, IL–operated by Sterigenics, LLC, and its predecessors–had been emitting a chemical known as ethylene oxide 24 hours a day into the residential community’s air for more than 30 years. Once it left the Sterigenics’ plant, the colorless, odorless ethylene oxide silently migrated a great distance, exposing people in homes, workplaces, and schools.

Ethylene oxide is widely used in the sterilization of medical devices and other items. It has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). It is especially dangerous to children.

Until the release of the government’s 2018 report, the residents of the Willowbrook area had never been told that such a dangerous chemical was infiltrating their community on a daily basis, or indeed at all. The more than 800 plaintiffs in the litigation were typically those who had been breathing the ethylene oxide—unknowingly—for years. After years of inhalation, most were then diagnosed with breast cancer, or lymphoma or leukemia—the cancers most strongly associated in medical studies with exposure to ethylene oxide.

The first trial in the Litigation was held in 2022. Shawn Collins was co-counsel on the trial. When the 6-week trial concluded, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff breast cancer survivor, Susan Kamuda, in the amount of $363 million. It was and remains the largest-ever single plaintiff verdict in Illinois, and that year was cited as one of the top 10 verdicts in the entire country.

$325 million of the jury’s award was for punitive damages, reflecting its resounding repudiation of the company’s recklessness in releasing such a dangerous chemical into the community, in such large quantities, so frequently, and without warning or protecting the residents against the chemical’s dangers.

In addition to serving as co-counsel in the Kamuda trial, Collins also was appointed by the Court to serve as one of three co-leads of the Litigation’s Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC), which was responsible for all aspects of the Litigation, advancing and protecting the rights of all plaintiffs in it.

Shortly after the Kamuda case verdict, and after months of negotiating–with co-PEC lead Collins taking a leadership role– the parties reached the $408 million global settlement of all plaintiffs’ claims against sterilization plant operator Sterigenics and its parent company.

“This agreement represents a remarkable achievement for the plaintiffs and the people affected by the ethylene oxide exposure,” stated Shawn Collins. “We are pleased to have reached a resolution that acknowledges the suffering endured by these individuals and their families.”

Case Information: In re: Willowbrook Ethylene Oxide Litigation, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois No. 2018L010475

Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee Co-leads: Shawn Collins of The Collins Law Firm, Patrick Salvi of Salvi Schostok & Pritchard, and Antonio Romanucci of Romanucci and Blandin. The court-appointed Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee included attorneys from The Collins Law Firm P.C.; Romanucci & Blandin, LLC; Smith LaCien LLP; Salvi Schostok & Pritchard, P.C.; Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC; Tomasik Kotin & Kasserman, LLC; Miner Barnhill & Galland, P.C.: and Clifford Law Offices.

If you have developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or breast cancer after years of exposure to ethylene oxide, we can help you determine if you have a legal claim against the company responsible for the contamination. Our environmental attorneys have years of experience represents plaintiffs suing corporations for polluting the groundwater or air in their neighborhoods.  Please call us at (630) 527-1595 to talk to an experienced ethylene oxide contamination attorney for FREE.

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