Press Releases and News Coverage
April 26, 2023 - Thank you to Christopher Harriss at Reckon News for writing this article and for interviewing partner Shawn Collins about the environmental impact of the recent railroad merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern. In the article, Shawn wonders why the East Palestine disaster didn't prompt us to take a hard look at the lack of regulations for the railroad industry. He also discusses how the increased rail traffic from the merger will create more cancer-causing pollution from diesel exhaust in multiple communities. Here is a quote from Shawn:
"East Palestine was our chance to learn that we have a massively profitable runaway industry that is essentially unregulated. That derailment was our moment to reexamine everything that's going wrong in the rail industry and why we don't have meaningful regulation. Instead, they have allowed the merger and now we'll have 11,000 more dangerous trains on the tracks."
Read the full article titled "The next East Palestine? US neighborhoods brace for huge increase in train traffic as rail merger takes effect" here.
March 16, 2023 - Thank you to WTTW - Chicago PBS for interviewing Collins Law partner Shawn Collins for their article on local opposition to the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern merger. Leaders and residents in the areas that will be affected are concerned that the railroad company merger will increase air and noise pollution, cause emergency service disruptions, and increase the risk of hazardous materials incidents in Chicago and the northwest suburbs.
Shawn voiced his concern about the STB relying on information from the rail companies to make their decision to approve the merger, especially in light of the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which highlighted serious safety issues within the railroad industry.
Here is an excerpt from the WTTW article:
Shawn Collins, an environmental attorney in the Chicago area, said safety and transparency are key to rail safety, and found fault with STB relying on information from the train companies.
"This decision is far too trusting of the railroads. You don't take the polluter's word for anything that is important," Collins said. "What the railroads say has to be considered, but you don't stop there. This is the worst time to be rushing a decision allowing more freight rail cars rumbling through Chicago and the suburbs."
Please read the full article titled "Merger of Large Train Companies Approved Despite Opposition from Northwest Suburbs" here.
March 8, 2023 - Attorney Shawn Collins is quoted in an article in DC Velocity, criticizing the rail industry's sudden rush to unveil new safety initiatives just so they can set their own operating standards before federal regulators step in and set more rigorous ones. The industry is trying to preempt Washington policymakers from taking action in response to the toxic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio and claiming that their own rail safety measures will prevent future train derailments.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Despite the rail industry's effort to set its own safety rules, other groups are already lining up to support tighter government regulation. The train workers' union the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has already announced its support for the Rail Safety Act of 2023, a bill that would enhance safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establish requirements for wayside defect detectors, create a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, and increase fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers.
And Illinois-based environmental advocates with The Collins Law Firm have criticized Norfolk Southern's six-point safety plan for vague language, a lack of specifics, and no clear timetable. "This is Norfolk Southern saying it doesn't plan to do anything that matters," the firm's partner and owner Shawn Collins said in a release. "It just wants us to think that it's doing something, while it plays for time, trusting that this gibberish will placate industry friendly regulators and elected officials until the horrific train derailment in East Palestine is off the front page. History has proven that this cynical strategy will work."
Read the complete article, titled "As federal regulators plan tighter oversight, Norfolk Southern and AAR unveil their own rail safety plans" here.
Six Collins Law Firm Attorneys Designated as Super Lawyers for 2023
January 31, 2023 - The Collins Law Firm is proud to announce that six 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 selected as 2023 Super Lawyers. Partner John Risvold and Associate Margaret Galka have been named 2023 Rising Stars.
Super Lawyers recognizes the top 5% of attorneys in each state. These attorneys, who are selected through peer nominations, independent research, and evaluations, have distinguished themselves in their legal practice. Rising Stars is reserved for only 2.5% of younger attorneys who have been practicing for 10 years or less. Super Lawyers is widely recognized as a valuable resource for anyone who is searching for a lawyer.
"We are honored that six attorneys at our firm have been recognized for excellence in the field of law. Our mission at The Collins Law Firm is to give each client the best representation possible, and it is gratifying to have this acknowledged," said Shawn Collins. Congratulations to the following attorneys for their recognition by Super Lawyers for 2023.
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 14 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 $460 million for his clients in this area, including a record-setting $363 million verdict for a woman who contracted breast cancer after decades of exposure to ethylene oxide. 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.
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 17 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 $160 million for his personal injury and environmental clients, including an $8 million settlement for an automobile accident victim.
Partner John Risvold represents victims and families in Illinois in personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. John’s personal injury settlements have been included in the Top 20 Personal Injury Settlements in Illinois and the Top 100 Truck Accident Settlements in the United States. Recently, John recovered $900,000 for a client who suffered spinal damage after being rear-ended in a trucking accident and $550,000 in a car accident case where our client was rear-ended at high speed which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. John has been a Super Lawyers Rising Star seven times.
Margaret Galka has been an associate at The Collins Law Firm since 2018. Margaret focuses her practice on environmental mass tort, civil rights, and other complex litigation. Margaret has represented many clients with health problems or property damage caused by toxins and environmental hazards. Recently, Margaret helped secure a record-breaking, $363 million, verdict at trial for a client who contracted breast cancer after decades of living near a sterilization facility that emitted a potent carcinogen (ethylene oxide) into their air. This is the first year Margaret has been selected to Rising Stars.
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 more than $100 million for clients exposed to toxic chemicals. He has been an Illinois Super Lawyer every year since the inception of the program.
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 since 2018.
Plaintiffs in Chemtool Lawsuit Granted Class Certification
The Winnebago County Court has recently granted the Firm's Motion for Class Certification stemming from the Chemtool fire and explosion in Rockton, Illinois. Judge Stephen Ballogh granted class certification to property owners and residents who resided within three miles of the Chemtool facility.
The Chemtool facility in Rockton, IL exploded 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. Homes within a 1-mile radius were evacuated for almost a week due to the toxic plume in their neighborhoods.
Collins Law Partner Ed Manzke is on the Plaintiffs Steering Council for the Chemtool class action litigation. He was appointed to the council by Winnebago County Judge Donna Honsel in July of this year.
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.]
The Collins Law Firm Named a 2023 Best Law Firm by U.S. News and Best Lawyers
Naperville (November 17, 2022) - The Collins Law Firm has been recognized both nationally and regionally as a 2023 Best Law Firm by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. Only a small fraction of firms--2071 law firms out of more than 400,000 in the U.S.--have earned national recognition from U.S. News and Best Lawyers this year; only 15,825 firms have received regional recognition. The Collins Law Firm is proud to have received the following rankings from Best Lawyers:
- National Tier 2: Litigation - Environmental
- National Tier 3: Mass Tort / Class Actions - Plaintiffs
- Regional Tier 1 - Chicago: Litigation - Environmental
- Regional Tier 2 - Chicago: Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiff
- Regional Tier 3 - Chicago:
- Commercial Litigation
- Mass Tort / Class Actions - Plaintiffs
"We are grateful to U.S. News and Best Lawyers for recognizing the dedication and hard work of everyone at The Collins Law Firm and feel fortunate to be included with the very best law firms not only in the Chicago area but in the nation," said partner Shawn Collins.
Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected lawyer-ranking service in the world. "The 2023 edition of U.S. News - Best Lawyers 'Best Law Firms' recognizes the most elite firms from across the nation, identified for their professional excellence with consistently positive feedback from clients and peers," according to the publication. The tiered rankings were awarded after reviewing more than 12.2 million evaluations from 115,000 leading lawyers around the country.
The Collins Law Firm is a boutique environmental, personal injury, and commercial litigation firm that has been serving Naperville and the surrounding communities since 1992. Founded by partner Shawn Collins, the firm is dedicated to giving a voice to those who have been wronged and has recovered over $904 million for our clients. For more information about The Collins Law Firm, please visit www.collinslaw.com.