Collins Law Firm Represents Plaintiff Awarded Record $363 Million by Cook County Jury in First Sterigenics Trial

A Cook County jury has found Sterigenics responsible for causing plaintiff Sue Kamuda’s breast cancer, awarding the Willowbrook woman a total of $363 million dollars in the first Sterigenics trial. Sue contracted an aggressive form of breast cancer after living 1/3 of a mile from Sterigenics’ sterilization facility for more than 20 years. The trial is the first of more than 760 lawsuits pending against the company in the circuit court of Cook County.

Government officials began investigating Sterigenics after data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed people living in the census tracts around the Willowbrook facility faced much higher-than-average cancer risks. The result of this investigation was a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) entitled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts from Ethylene Oxide Emissions” STERIGENICS INTERNATIONAL, INC. WILLOWBROOK, ILLINOIS, which became public in 2018. The report pointed to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions as causing the elevated cancer risk, prompting a public outcry.

The trial detailed how plaintiff Sue Kamuda moved into Willowbrook in 1985, less than a year after Sterigenics began emitting ethylene oxide into the community. Unaware of the toxins in the air, Sue raised three children in her Willowbrook home before being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2007. She endured surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation before going into remission. Prior to her bout with cancer, Sue had been an avid runner and healthy individual with no family history of breast cancer. Breast cancer has been linked to ethylene oxide in multiple studies.

Lawyers for Sue argued that Sterigenics and its predecessor Micro-Biotrol had been informed of the cancer risks connected to ethylene oxide but continued to emit the carcinogen into the air without any warning to the community. In fact, while instructing employees to wear biohazard gear to protect themselves from ethylene oxide, the company was pushing back against government regulations and postponing the installation of needed emission controls. A former Sterigenics CEO testified during trial that he knew ethylene oxide was dangerous but failed to tighten up emission controls, all while company profits soared.

“The behavior of Sterigenics put an entire community at risk for company profit, and the company offered no meaningful defense of its actions” said attorney Shawn Collins, a lead attorney on the trial team.

After closing arguments, the jury debated for two days before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The amount of the verdict: $363 million dollars, the highest jury verdict on record in Illinois for a single plaintiff. It included $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages.

“We are immensely grateful to the jury for realizing that these companies were operating with blatant disregard for the health and safety of the people in the community. The size of the verdict sends them a message that such behavior will not be tolerated. This verdict is the first step in making them accountable, not only to Sue Kamuda but to hundreds of others. We especially salute the courage of Sue Kamuda and her wonderfully supportive family. Theirs is a rare and inspiring American story: they stood up to wealthy, well-connected corporate polluters, and they won,” said Shawn Collins.

In addition to being represented by Shawn Collins, Ed Manzke, and Maggie Galka of The Collins Law Firm, Sue Kamuda was also represented by lead attorneys Patrick Salvi II, Lance Northcutt, and Jennifer Cascio of Salvi, Schostock & Pritchard and Scott Entin, Deanna Pihos, and Roisin Duffy Gideon of Miner, Barnhill & Galland. Mr. Collins is a Co-Lead Counsel on the Plaintiffs Executive Committee for all of the Sterigenics cases in Cook County.

Case No.: 2018 L 010475 [Kamuda, et al., v. Sterigenics U.S., LLC, et al.]

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Shawn Collins is a very talented lawyer, as are all the attorneys on his team. I've known and worked with Shawn for more that 30 years. Not only is he a top notch technical litigator but his communication skills are second to none. If anyone I know is ever in need of an attorney, Shawn is my very first recommendation. He gives very solid advice that goes beyond the law. He is someone you can trust to tell you the truth so you are not lead astray in the complex legal world. You really can't find a better advocate. E.M.
We were incredibly satisfied with our experience with The Collins Law Firm. We worked closely with Ed Manzke and found that he had a personal touch and truly got to know us in addition to being knowledgeable and effective in his field. The caring and individual attitude helped us tremendously throughout the entire process and we always felt like our case was in safe hands. We would highly recommend The Collins Law Firm for both its stellar work and dedicated employees. M.A.
My father recommended The Collins Law Firm to me after watching Shawn Collins and Ed Manzke at trial representing Lisle residents against Lockformer. For years, he told us courtroom tales about Shawn and Ed, citing their incredible skill as trial lawyers and how they put the huge Lockformer legal team to shame. So when my son was the victim of a wrongful death, they were my first and only choice. I can't say enough to truly express how grateful I am to The Collin's Law Firm for all that they did for me and my family. This amazing team advocated for me in my darkest moments, surpassing my expectations in every way. I will be forever grateful to Shawn and Ed. K.D.
I have worked with Rob, Shawn and The Collins Law Firm team in connection with both complex business transactions and litigation over the past several years. Shawn is far and away the best business litigation attorney I have worked with. Rob has been our lead attorney on M&A and corporate restructures, and he has delivered each time, and on time. I would highly recommend Rob to get the deal done! W.D.
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