ATLANTA (AP) — A medical sterilization company has agreed to settle nearly 80 lawsuits alleging people were exposed to a cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide, emitted from its plant outside of Atlanta.
Details of the settlement were submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. In a statement Wednesday, the company denied any liability, and the 79 plaintiffs must agree to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning the decision is final.
“Sterigenics and Sotera Health LLC deny any liability and the term sheet explicitly provides that the settlement is not to be construed as an admission of any liability or that emissions from Sterigenics’ Atlanta facility have ever posed any safety hazard to the surrounding communities,” according to the statement.
Sterigenics has been the center of multiple lawsuits with Cobb County and residents over the plant’s emissions. The company sued county officials for devaluing 5,000 properties within a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) radius of the plant in 2020, and homeowners sued Sterigenics for their property value decrease.
County spokesperson Ross Cavitt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Sterigenics has withdrawn its suit against Cobb County regarding the property devaluation. While the county is not engaged in any ongoing lawsuits, officials are reevaluating their options for regulating the facility after a federal judge allowed the plant to reopen this year while paving the way for the county to assert requirements for a new permit under other conditions, Cavitt said.
Erick Allen, a former state representative who lives near the plant and is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told WSB-TV that while the settlement will help families, it won’t fix issues for the county.
“I’m happy for the families and they feel that they’ve gotten what they deserved from this civil case,” Allen said. “But the plant is still open, and that means we didn’t get what we ultimately deserve in this area, which is clean air.”
Jeff Gewirtz, an attorney representing Cobb County homeowners and warehouse workers in several other suits against Sterigenics, said the settlement only covers some of the ongoing exposure cases. Roughly 400 claims in Cobb related to the emission claims are still pending.
In the statement addressed to investors, the company states that it “intends to vigorously defend its remaining ethylene oxide cases.”
The agreement came a month after Sterigenics agreed to a $408 million settlement in all but three of 882 claims in Illinois, which alleged health problems from the company’s release of ethylene oxide from its Chicago facility, according to news reports.
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