Sterigenics accused of funneling cash to shareholders to avoid damages in toxic emissions lawsuit
Antonio Romanucci, lead counsel for the legal group suing Sterigenics, accused the company of choosing “profits over people” and “cash over safety.”
Chicago-area residents who claim emissions from a Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook gave them cancer are now accusing the medical sterilization company of paying out $1.3 billion to investors to avoid using that money for damages, according to a new court filing.
Sterigenics is at the center of 75 court cases accusing the medical supplies sterilization company’s facilities of polluting the air with toxic ethylene oxide and causing leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, miscarriages and other medical conditions.
Attorneys from law firm Romanucci & Blandin amended their lawsuit Friday, accusing Sterigenics of a series of cash distributions to shareholders over four years and pledging assets to banks to reduce money available for damage awards.
In an emailed statement, a representative from Sterigenics called the claims “inaccurate and misleading.”
“The companies regularly take actions to maintain and enhance their financial strength for the benefit of all stakeholders as they invest for the future and continue to deliver vital services and products to customers,” Sterigenics said.“Assertions that the companies took actions with respect to capital structure in response to ongoing litigation are false.”
“While we empathize with anyone dealing with cancer, we are confident that operations at our Willowbrook facility are not responsible for causing the illnesses alleged in any lawsuit. We look forward to continuing to present our case in court to defend against the plaintiffs’ baseless charges.”
Sterigenics began operations in Willowbrook in 1999. The Illinois EPA ordered the facility closed in February 2019. A judge later said it could reopen if it met certain standards, but Sterigenics announced in September that it was closing the plants permanently.
Ethylene oxide is a colorless, odorless gas that’s been linked to lymphoma, leukemia, breast and stomach cancers, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute.