Medical device sterilization company Sterigenics must pay $363 million to cancer survivor Susan Kamuda, who had claimed that its Illinois plant’s emissions caused her illness, a jury in Cook County ruled.
“Just such a relief. What came after that really didn’t matter,” Kamuda said in reference to the jury’s ruling, according to CBS Chicago.
The case is the first in more than 700 lawsuits the company is facing, according to Bloomberg Law. The company used ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, to sterilize medical equipment, with Kamuda’s lawsuit claiming that the Willowbrook, Illinois-based plant emitted the chemical for decades.
Kamuda’s suit alleged that the residents of Willowbrook had unknowingly inhaled the gas on a routine basis and that Sterigenics hadn’t informed them that it was regularly releasing the carcinogen into the air. Kamuda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, about two decades after moving to Willowbrook.
In the hearing last week, Kamuda testified under oath that she would have move out of Willowbrook if she had been aware that the plant was releasing ethylene oxide into the air.
Kamuda told the jury that moving into her Willowbrook home in 1985 with her husband and three children was “probably the happiest day” of her life. She didn’t know that Sterigenics had set up its facility in the community at the same time, and she described her later shock after learning the plant had been emitting a known toxin for years.
Kamuda’s son was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, according to CBS Chicago.
Sterigenics to appeal
Sterigenics has maintained there is no proof Kamuda’s cancer was linked to their emissions. In a statement on Monday, the company said it is “evaluating the verdict and plans to challenge this decision through all appropriate process, including appeals.”
Kamuda was the first plaintiff to go to trial. At a news conference, her attorney, Patrick Salvi II, said the ruling “ought to set the tone.”
“There are a lot of victims out there. And we’re ready to do this again and again if we have to,” Salvi said. “This was a step in the right direction.”