Sterigenics / Ethylene Oxide

Press Releases and News Coverage

Sterigenics Polluted Ill. Village For Decades, Jury Hears

Law360 (August 18, 2022, 11:22 PM EDT) -- Industrial sterilization company Sterigenics pumped excessive amounts of ethylene oxide into the air from its Willowbrook, Illinois, facility for decades without warning the community about the serious health risks of breathing in the known carcinogen, an Illinois jury heard Thursday.

Sterigenics and former parent company Griffith Foods knew since at least the early 1980s that ethylene oxide exposure posed significant cancer and reproductive health risks but fought the science studying the molecule and regulatory efforts to curb its emissions in its bid to put profits over public safety, counsel for 22-year-old Willowbrook resident Sue Kamuda told jurors during opening statements in a packed Cook County courtroom.

The "unnecessary" and excessive emission was at least part of the reason Kamuda developed an aggressive form of breast cancer, and the companies should cough up at least $20 million to compensate for her injury and suffering, her attorney, Patrick Salvi II of Salvi Schostok & Pritchard PC told the jury.

"At the end of the day, this case is simple," he said. "These companies put too much of a carcinogen into the air, it went into a woman's lungs and she got breast cancer."

Sterigenics, however, asserted the jury won't hear any evidence supporting Kamuda's allegations through the parties' several-week trial. Evidence will instead prove that the facility in the village of Willowbrook "was on the cutting edge of technology and always in compliance" with state, local and federal regulatory limits on ethylene oxide emissions, the company's attorney, Ann Marie Duffy of Hollingsworth LLP, told the jurors.

Kamuda's case is one of hundreds of personal injury suits that have been lobbed over Sterigenics' ethylene oxide emissions since 2018, when regulators began sounding the alarm about the risks residents and workers faced from their exposure to the Willowbrook facility's air pollution. It's also the first of those suits to go to trial.

The state issued a so-called "seal order" in February 2019 that effectively shut down facility operations until Sterigenics could significantly curb its toxic emissions, and although the company had settled a lawsuit from the Illinois attorney general and applied for new permits to forge a path toward reopening, the company ultimately announced the facility would stay closed given the state's "unstable legislative and regulatory landscape."

Sterigenics, formerly called Micro-Biotrol Inc., converted ethylene oxide into a gas it used to sterilize primarily medical supplies, such as syringes. The process involved shutting the products into a room and sealing it tight before releasing the colorless and odorless gas, which penetrates through boxes, wrapping and any other packaging to kill every living microorganism on the products, Salvi told the jury. The gas was released to the air primarily through a vacuum pump that removed it from the sterilization room before workers could re-enter it and move the products, Salvi told the jury.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued a report in 1981 identifying ethylene oxide as a suspected carcinogen, but parent company Griffith was "way ahead" of the federal agency and knew of the compound's dangers because it invented ethylene oxide sterilization and had been using the process for years before NIOSH released its report, Salvi said.

Further studies into the compound continued to reveal health risks from exposure, and even though Griffith knew of at least one detoxification plan it could have implemented for safer sterilization operations, the company never put one in place before opening the Willowbrook facility in 1984, Salvi said. Neither had Griffith conducted analyses on issues such as how far ethylene oxide would travel in the community, or how long it would stay in the air, he said.

Sterigenics, now a unit of Sotera Health, consistently underplayed its ethylene oxide use in reports to regulators so it could fly under the radar and continue making money from its toxic operation, Salvi said.

The company often changed its emission calculations depending on whether it was reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the state environmental regulator, and "sometimes they would change the calculations based on nothing," he said.

Sterigenics' attorney, Duffy, urged the jury to reject Kamuda's allegations, asserting her "story" runs "directly contrary" to the evidence it will see at trial. Aside from Sterigenics' consistent compliance with regulatory emission limits, the jury will also learn that breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world, most often caused by natural errors in cell replication, she said. Kamuda won't introduce any evidence proving her cancer was uncommon or unusual, she said.

Griffith's counsel, Christopher Wilson of Perkins Coie LLP, also urged the jury to stay mindful of the companies' relationship throughout the timeline at issue. Griffith was simply Micro-Biotrol's parent company when the Willowbrook facility opened its doors and didn't emit "one drop" of ethylene oxide into the community's air in that role, he said. Griffith also sold Micro-Biotrol in 1999, so it "is entirely out of the case" by that point because the company no longer had any connection to its former subsidiary, he said.

Trial is expected to last several weeks.

Sterigenics and Sotera Health are represented by Bruce Braun, Kara McCall and Eric Mattson of Sidley Austin LLP and Ann Marie Duffy, Joe Hollingsworth, Eric Lasker and Matthew Malinowski of Hollingsworth LLP.

Griffith is represented by Christopher Wilson, Jonathan Buck, Kathleen Stetsko and Keith Klein of Perkins Coie LLP.

Kamuda is represented by Patrick A. Salvi II, Lance D. Northcutt and Jennifer M. Cascio of Salvi Schostok & Pritchard PC, Shawn Collins and Margaret Galka of The Collins Law Firm and Scott A. Entin, Roisin Duffy-Gideon and Deanna N. Pihos of Miner Barnhill & Galland PC.

The case is Sue Kamuda v. Sterigenics et al., case number 2018-L-010475, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Law Division.


Three Collins Law Attorneys Chosen for the 2023 Edition of Best Lawyers in America©

Naperville (August 25, 2022) - The Collins Law Firm is proud to announce that three Collins Law Firm attorneys have been chosen by peers for inclusion in the 2023 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected guide to the legal profession. This year's list recognizes the professional excellence of the top 5% of private practice lawyers based on millions of peer-review evaluations.

Partner Shawn Collins has been recognized again by Best Lawyers for his work representing plaintiffs in environmental litigation; partner Ed Manzke for his work representing personal injury clients. "I am honored to be recognized for my work on behalf of people harmed by toxic chemicals and thankful to be included among such accomplished attorneys," said Collins Law founder Shawn Collins. Partner Ed Manzke added, "It is an honor to be recognized among such a distinguished group of lawyers including some of the true legends in our profession."

Partner John Risvold has been recognized for the first time in the Ones To Watch category for his work on behalf of personal injury and medical malpractice plaintiffs. "I'm proud to be honored, alongside my partners Shawn Collins and Ed Manzke, in the annual list of Best Lawyers in America. Being recognized as one of the "Best Lawyers Ones to Watch", is especially meaningful because this recognition is based solely on peer reviews."

The firm is grateful that Best Lawyers has chosen to recognize our attorneys who are among a handful of Naperville lawyers included on this year's Best Lawyers list.

The Collins Law Firm is a premier environmental, personal injury, and commercial litigation firm. Located in Naperville, IL, the firm serves clients all over the Midwest. For more information about The Collins Law Firm, please visit www.collinslaw.com.


Collins Law Attorneys Robert Dawidiuk Mentioned in Cook County Record Article

"On March 31, an attorney representing the Edgar County Watchdogs, as well as ECW cofounder Kirk Allen and government transparency and reform advocate Adam Andrzejewski, asked DuPage County Judge Bryan S. Chapman for permission to file a motion for partial summary judgment to end a big part of a lawsuit waged by plaintiff Carla Burkhart and her company, Herricane Graphics Inc.

In that filing, the Watchdogs and other defendants assert Burkhart improperly targeted them in the lawsuit for reporting the part she allegedly played in an alleged public scandal involving the alleged misuse of millions of dollars in public money.

And her alleged part in the alleged scandal makes her a "limited public figure," fairly subject under the First Amendment's press protections to potentially unflattering news coverage for her alleged actions, the Watchdogs said.

The Watchdogs and related defendants are represented by attorney Robert Dawidiuk, of The Collins Law Firm, of Naperville."

Link to the complete Cook County Record article here.


John Risvold Named Partner at The Collins Law Firm

Naperville, IL, May 2, 2022 - The Collins Law Firm is pleased to announce that attorney John Risvold has been named a Partner at the Firm.

John joined The Collins Law Firm as an associate attorney in 2017. Since that time he has recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for injured victims of negligence in courtrooms throughout the state. John represents injured people and their families in personal injury and wrongful death matters, including car accidents, commercial vehicle and semi-truck crashes, nursing home abuse, and medical negligence. He has been recognized as a Top 40 under 40 Trial Lawyer in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers and has been named a Super Lawyer Rising Star by Thomson Reuters every year since 2017.


Five Collins Law Firm Attorneys Recognized as Super Lawyers for 2022

February 4, 2022 - The Collins Law Firm is proud to announce that five attorneys at the firm have been named to the Illinois Super Lawyers list this year. Partners Shawn Collins and Edward Manzke, and Of Counsel attorneys Norman Berger and John Sopuch have been named as 2022 Super Lawyers. Associate John Risvold has been named a 2022 Rising Star.

Super Lawyers recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their legal practice. Super Lawyer designation is reserved for only the top 5% of lawyers in the state, and Rising Stars distinction is conferred on no more than 2.5% of lawyers in the state. Lawyers are selected through peer nominations, independent research, and evaluations. The Super Lawyers list is a valuable resource for consumers looking for outstanding legal representation.

"We are honored that five attorneys at our firm have been recognized for excellence in the field of law. We always strive to provide the very best legal representation to each of our clients," said Shawn Collins. Congratulations to the following attorneys for their recognition by Super Lawyers for 2022.

Shawn Collins is the managing partner and founder of The Collins Law Firm and has three and a half decades of experience as a trial lawyer. He has been named to the Illinois Super Lawyers list 13 times since the program was introduced in 2005. His cases have set precedents in the field of environmental litigation, and he has secured verdicts or settlements of more than $97 million for his clients in this area. Mr. Collins is also very experienced in commercial litigation; together with other lawyers at the firm, he has obtained verdicts or settlements of $315 million on behalf of commercial clients.

Norman Berger serves as Of Counsel with The Collins Law firm on environmental matters. Norman has been practicing environmental law since the early days of environmental regulation when he was an Assistant Attorney General of Illinois representing the Illinois EPA in enforcement matters. Since then, Norman has been involved in many of the largest Superfund matters in the Midwest and has recovered in excess of $100 million for clients exposed to toxic chemicals. He has been an Illinois Super Lawyer every year since the inception of the program.

Edward Manzke has three decades of experience as a litigator in both personal injury and environmental cases. A senior partner at the firm, Mr. Manzke has been named to the Illinois Super Lawyers list 16 times since 2006. He was one of the first plaintiff's lawyers in the country to successfully prosecute a wrongful death case involving the negligent manufacture of synthetic drugs. Over the years, Ed has won verdicts and settlements totaling over $150 million for his personal injury and environmental clients, including an $8 million settlement for an automobile accident victim.

John Risvold represents victims and families in Illinois in personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. Several of John's personal injury settlements have been included in the Top 50 Settlements in Illinois over the years. Recently, John recovered a million-dollar settlement for a client injured in a truck accident and $550,000 for a car crash victim. John has been a Super Lawyers Rising Star six times.

John Sopuch serves as Of Counsel at The Collins Law Firm and represents clients in business litigation and commercial dispute resolution. He has been involved in several multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts with the firm. He has been a Super Lawyer 5 times since 2018.

The Collins Law Firm is a premier boutique law firm in the Chicago suburbs representing clients throughout the Midwest in personal injury, environmental, and commercial matters.


The Collins Law Firm Receives Best Law Firm Ranking from U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers

Naperville (November 12, 2021) - We are pleased to announce that The Collins Law Firm has been recognized as a Best Law Firm for 2022 by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. Firms included on the Best Law Firm list "are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers". The Collins Law Firm is proud to have received the following rankings from Best Lawyers:

  • National Tier 3:
    • Litigation - Environmental
    • Mass Tort / Class Actions - Plaintiffs
  • Metropolitan Chicago Tier 1:
    • Litigation - Environmental
  • Metropolitan Chicago Tier 2:
    • Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiff
  • Metropolitan Chicago Tier 3:
    • Commercial Litigation
    • Mass Tort / Class Actions - Plaintiffs

"It's a great honor and a compliment to everyone who works here that we have been recognized among the very best law firms in the Chicago area," said partner Shawn Collins. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected lawyer ranking service in the world. Firms that are included as Best Law Firms have earned the highest level of respect from clients and other leading lawyers in the community. The tiered rankings from U.S. News and Best Lawyers are awarded after reviewing more than 8.2 million evaluations from 115,000 leading lawyers around the country.

The Collins Law Firm is a premier environmental, personal injury, and commercial litigation firm that has been serving Naperville and the surrounding communities since 1992. For more information about The Collins Law Firm, please visit www.collinslaw.com .

Press Coverage of this recognition:
2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America© Honors Three Collins Law Attorneys

Naperville (September 7, 2021) - The Collins Law Firm is proud to announce that three Collins Law Firm attorneys have been selected by peers for inclusion in the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©.

Senior partner Shawn Collins has been recognized by Best Lawyers for his work in environmental litigation; partner Ed Manzke for his work representing personal injury clients; and attorney John Sopuch III for his work in commercial litigation and mass torts/class actions. These three attorneys are among only a handful of Naperville lawyers included in this year’s edition of Best Lawyers.

“I am honored to be recognized for my work fighting for justice for communities and individuals harmed by environmental contamination. I don’t do this work for the accolades, but it is nice to be included among such accomplished attorneys,” said Collins Law founder Shawn Collins. Partner Ed Manzke added,  “I am grateful to be considered by my peers as worthy of recognition in the Best Lawyers in America directory.  It is truly an honor.”

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected guide to the legal profession. The 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America© recognizes the professional excellence of over 66,000 lawyers in 147 practice areas. This year’s list highlights the top 5% of private practicing attorneys based on more than 10.8 million peer-review evaluations.

The Collins Law Firm is a premier environmental, personal injury, and commercial litigation firm located in Naperville, IL since 1992. For more information about The Collins Law Firm, please visit www.collinslaw.com .


Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Chemtool for Explosion

June 21, 2021- The Collins Law Firm, P.C. has filed a Class Action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated for the explosion that occurred at their Rockton, Illinois plant on June 14, 2021. The explosion resulted in an enormous chemical fire that created a massive plume of toxic smoke, ash, and debris that could be seen from 100 miles away. Eighty-nine fire departments were dispatched to the site to aid in combating the fire.

As a result of the fire, the Winnebago County authorities issued an executive proclamation of disaster emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents living within a one-mile radius of the plant. The affected residents were directed not to return home even for medication, technology and communication devices, or other personal items.

Authorities also advised residents within three miles of the plant to wear masks for protection against the potentially toxic and harmful chemicals released by the fire, and to remain indoors without using their air conditioning. Residents were further warned not to touch any of the debris on their property but to have it removed by professionals with experience working with hazardous materials.

The lawsuit seeks damages for nuisance, trespass, and the loss of use and enjoyment of their homes. The plaintiffs allege that Chemtool was negligent and failed to exercise the reasonable care that would have prevented the explosion, fire, and smoke, and dust plume that inundated the community.

"We look forward to representing the residents and business owners who have been severely impacted by the explosion at the Chemtool plant and hope to recover for them everything that they have lost as a result of this disaster." said attorney Ed Manzke. The residents will be represented by Mr. Manzke and attorney Shawn Collins of The Collins Law Firm.

About The Collins Law Firm: The Collins Law Firm represents families against polluters throughout the United States, fighting for clean air, soil and water, and compensation for injury to property and health caused by dangerous chemicals dumped and spilled into the environment. For more information on The Collins Law Firm please visit: Collins Law .


Naperville Attorney Shawn Collins Honored by Best Lawyers in America©

Naperville (September 10, 2020) - The Collins Law Firm is proud to announce that senior partner Shawn Collins has been included in the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© in recognition of his nationwide work in environmental litigation. Best Lawyers lists are compiled annually following exhaustive peer-review evaluations. This year’s list highlights the top 6% of private practicing attorneys in the country based on more than 8 million votes.

“I am honored to be recognized for my work fighting for justice for communities and individuals harmed by toxic chemicals,” said Shawn Collins.

The Best Lawyers in America© are nominated and reviewed by their peers based on their professional accomplishments. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence, and inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a significant honor in the legal profession.

Shawn Collins is the senior partner and founder of The Collins Law Firm which has been a premier environmental litigation, personal injury, and commercial litigation firm in Naperville, IL since 1992. For more information about The Collins Law Firm, please visit www.collinslaw.com .


600 New Personal Injury Lawsuits Filed Against Sterigenics: The Collins Law Firm Files on Behalf of 55 of the New Plaintiffs

August 2020 - The Collins Law Firm has filed additional lawsuits against Sterigenics on behalf of 55 plaintiffs who believe their breast and blood cancers were caused by the company’s toxic emissions. These new cases are in addition to the lawsuits we filed earlier on behalf of 26 similarly affected plaintiffs. Highlighting the scope and seriousness of the problem, our firm and the other law firms representing the victims of Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide contamination, filed a total of more than 600 new lawsuits against the company responsible for emitting an airborne carcinogen into the community for decades.

The lawsuits, filed in Cook County, allege that Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions caused the breast cancers, leukemias, lymphomas, and other blood cancers that have devastated or killed hundreds of innocent people in the Willowbrook area. They were filed on behalf of plaintiffs who lived or worked near the Sterigenics medical sterilization facility.

The lawsuits also include a new defendant, Griffith Foods, which operated the sterilization plant in the late 1980s and 1990s. According to the lawsuits, the food supplier also bears responsibility for the ethylene oxide emissions which sickened so many.

“We are firmly committed to securing justice for those whose lives have been forever changed by the egregious behavior of Sterigenics and the other defendants. Their sheer disregard for human lives is staggering, clearly and repeatedly choosing profits over people,” said Shawn Collins of The Collins Law Firm.

The Collins Law Firm is on the court-appointed Executive Committee for the legal group suing Sterigenics. That committee also includes Romanucci & Blandin, LLC; Salvi Schostock & Pritchard, P.C.; Miner Barnhill & Galland, P.C.; Smith LaCien, LLP; Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC; Clifford Law Offices; and Tomasik Kotin & Kasserman, LLC.

The Collins Law Firm and the other firms are determined to hold Sterigenics and Griffith Foods accountable for endangering the health and lives of the people of Willowbrook and the surrounding communities.

With the addition of these new cases, the total number of individual lawsuits pending against Sterigenics is now more than 700.

For more news coverage of the filings:

Plaintiffs' lawyers file 600 more personal injury lawsuits vs Sterigenics, now also suing Griffith Foods

The Collins Law Firm is pleased to announce that four attorneys at the firm have been named to the Super Lawyers list this year. Attorneys Shawn Collins, Edward Manzke, and John Sopuch have been named as 2020 Super Lawyers, and attorney John Risvold has been named a 2020 Rising Star. Only 5% of lawyers in Illinois are recognized by Super Lawyers for their professional achievement. We congratulate our attorneys on this recognition of their dedication and hard work:

Shawn Collins A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago Law School, Shawn represents environmental and business clients in complex litigation throughout Illinois and the country. His environmental cases, brought on behalf of families and communities fighting corporate polluters, have set precedents and helped The Collins Law Firm become a nationally recognized environmental litigation firm. He has been on the "Super Lawyers" list eleven times.

Edward Manzke represents personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death clients all over Illinois. He earned both his bachelor's degree and his law degree from the University of Illinois. Since becoming a lawyer in 1992, Ed has won verdicts and settlements for his clients totaling over $100 million. Ed has been selected as a "Super Lawyer" fourteen times since 2006.

John Risvold represents victims and families in Illinois in personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. John earned his bachelor's degree and his law degree from the University of Missouri, graduating from the law school with the prestigious Order of Barristers. He has been a Super Lawyers Rising Star four times.

John Sopuch III A graduate of the University of Texas and Pepperdine Law School in California, John serves Of Counsel at The Collins Law Firm and represents clients in business litigation and commercial dispute resolution. He has been a Super Lawyer since 2018.

The Collins Law Firm is one of the nation's premier sources of legal representation for victims of negligent, reckless and malicious acts. Founder Shawn Collins has represented victims of groundwater contamination, air pollution and vapor intrusion, recovering more than $100 million for injured clients. The firm is known for its experience, resources and knowledge of complex scientific issues at the heart of environmental contamination cases, and through litigation forces polluters to clean up toxic environmental pollution, provide safe drinking water, prevent dangerous chemical vapors from invading homes and excavate contaminated soil.

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Client Reviews
★★★★★
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.
★★★★★
Rob has been our out-side General Counsel for ten years. As a business with a global presence, it is important that we have the very best legal representation. Rob and the team have guided us through litigation battles, negotiating and drafting our important business contracts, and advising us in our business strategies. He has a great team of lawyers working with him. M.F.