$363 million verdict in Sterigenics trial, Navy vet freed by Taliban and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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The Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook.Google Maps

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Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 79 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 62. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a chance of thunderstorms and a high near 87.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Sterigenics trial: $363 million verdict against Willowbrook company in first trial over toxic gas emissions

A Cook County jury today ruled that Sterigenics and two other companies should pay $363 million in damages for exposing a woman and thousands of other Willowbrook residents to dangerous levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide gas since the 1980s.

The jury reached its verdict after a five-week trial and one day of deliberations. The medical tool sterilization company Sterigenics was accused of releasing the toxic gas from its Willowbrook plant from 1985 to 2019, causing cancer in a woman who lived nearby.

The verdict exceeded the $346 million that lawyers for plaintiff Sue Kamuda asked for in closing arguments Thursday against Sterigenics, parent company Sotera Health and its corporate predecessor Griffith Foods.

The jury awarded Kamuda $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages. The jury ruled that Sterigenics pay $220 million, Sotera pay $100 million and Griffith pay $5 million.

Kamuda is among more than 700 other people who have sued Sterigenics since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published research in 2018 that showed people living near the plant got cancer at rates nine times above the national average.

Sterigenics’s Willowbrook plant was temporarily shut down by the state in 2019 after authorities detected ethylene oxide nearby. Facing public pressure, Sterigenics closed the plant permanently.

The outcome of this case will likely affect the rulings in the other cases.

Read David Struett’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, if he ran for mayor, would be one of the prime candidates alongside incumbent Lori Lightfoot, according to a poll commissioned by the national political action committee Nuestro PAC. Lynn Sweet has more on Garcia’s standing with just over two months until the petition filing deadline.
  2. The White House this morning confirmed details of a deal leading to the release of hostage Mark Frerichs, a Lombard native and Navy veteran who was held in Afghanistan for more than two years by the Taliban. Charlene Cakora, Frerichs’ sister, said she got the new when her cell phone rang at 3:36 a.m. this morning and President Joe Biden was on the line.
  3. Lyria Opera’s daring rethinking of “Fiddler on the Roof” proves “a triumph in every way,” Kyle MacMillan writes in a raving four-star review for the Broadway revival. Read MacMillan’s full review here.
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A bright one

Street artists compare styles at mural painting under Skyway: ‘It’s beautiful’

Michael Scott traveled across the city to the South Chicago neighborhood Sunday to marvel at the work of street artists.

Dozens of them were spray painting murals simultaneously on the towering walls of the Skyway’s viaducts.

“You’ve got to appreciate what they do with spray paint,” Scott said. “The skill it takes. Man, I love it.”

Scott gave up spray painting in grammar school and now makes hip-hop beats. But he sees little distinction between the visual and audio realms. “It’s all still a part of hip-hop,” he says.

Artists work on different pieces of work Sunday at the “Meeting of Styles,” an international street art festival near Commercial and South Chicago avenues on the Southeast Side.

Artists work on different pieces of work Sunday at the “Meeting of Styles,” an international street art festival near Commercial and South Chicago avenues on the Southeast Side.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The street artists were taking part in the international “Meeting of Styles” festival, which returned to Chicago this weekend for its fourth year. Some of the artists came from Mexico and Germany to paint viaduct walls near Commercial and South Chicago avenues.

Within earshot was the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade, which passed through an underpass crowded with street artists at work.

The festival’s organizers said the Southeast Side event has become an important way for the street artist community to come together.

David Struett has more on the art fest here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s the best part of summer ending in Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: Should for-profit festivals like Riot Fest be allowed to take over public space like Douglass Park? Why or why not? Here’s what some of you said...

“If the parks and community share in that profit then yes.” — Jose Garcia

“As long as they pay for clean up, yes.” — Anthony Murphy

“I have no problem with them happening in public parks as long as they pay for event security and clean-up. However, to close off the same park multiple times per season is grossly unfair to the residents of the area whose tax dollars pay for the parks and deserve to enjoy the season.” — Randy Volz

“I suspect that far more Chicagoans make use of Grant Park during Lollapalooza than during any non-event weekend.” — Charlie Kehm

“It is a responsibility to hold respect to community members above private interests but that’s not what the Chicago Park District, local alderpeople, and organizers of for-profit festivals have shown in Douglass Park. To think that the profit already wealthy people make from mega festivals comes back to the people who live here, and not just the local alderpeople, is naive. Because there has been a failure for 7 years to respect the community that relies on accessing Douglass Park, Riot Fest and other mega festivals should no longer be allowed to take over public space, but especially not limited green spaces in Black and brown communities.” — Karina Solano 

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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