Sotera Health Company’s (SHC) EtO Processing Emitted Massive Toxins and Caused Cancer in People Living in the Communities Near its Facilities
A shareholder filed a class action on behalf of all investors who purchased or otherwise acquired Sotera Health Company (NASDAQ: SHC) common stock: (i) pursuant to the Company’s initial public offering (“IPO”) conducted on November 20, 2020; (ii) pursuant to the Company’s secondary public offering (“SPO”) conducted on September 18, 2021; or (iii) between November 20, 2020 and September 19, 2022. Sotera provides sterilization and lab testing and advisory services to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.
According to the complaint, the Company’s sterilization services rely on three primary technologies, one of which is Ethylene Oxide (“EtO”) processing. EtO processing emits toxic fumes, which must be filtered before being released into the air. In December 2016, the EPA reclassified EtO as a chemical known to be carcinogenic to humans and increased its estimate of EtO’s cancer potency by a multiple of thirty.
Sotera, through its Sterigenics business, conducts or has conducted EtO processing at facilities located in Illinois, California, Georgia, and New Mexico. In August 2018, the EPA reported that people living in communities near Sterigenics’ facilities in Illinois, Georgia, and New Mexico had among the highest cancer rates in the country. That same month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report documenting the public health impacts of Sterigenics’ emissions on the area surrounding its Illinois facility and revealed the staggering and disproportionate risks of cancer in that area.
Beginning in September 2018, cancer-stricken plaintiffs filed a surge of lawsuits in Illinois against Sotera alleging that EtO emissions from the Company’s sterilization facility had caused their cancer. On September 30, 2019, Sotera announced the closure of its Illinois facility. Beginning in August 2020, just months before the IPO, cancer-stricken plaintiffs living in proximity to a Sterigenics facility in Georgia filed lawsuits similar to those filed in Illinois.
Sotera conducted its IPO on November 20, 2020, selling 53.59 million shares of common stock at $23 per share for gross proceeds of more than $1.2 million. The Company conducted its SPO on March 18, 2021, selling 25 million shares of Sotera’s common stock at $27 per share for $675 million in gross proceeds. The Offering Materials issued in connection with the Offerings, and throughout the class period, included numerous materially false and misleading representations concerning its emissions control systems and exposure to liability from lawsuits for the Company’s failure to limit harmful EtO emissions. The Company represented that it had “a proactive [environmental, health and safety] program and a culture of safety and quality.” In addition, Sotera stated that it employed adequate and effective safeguards to control EtO emissions. Moreover, Sotera and its executives vehemently denied allegations that the Company’s EtO emissions from its sterilization facilities caused cancer and other severe health issues in people living in the communities near those facilities.
On September 19, 2022, an Illinois state court jury in the first lawsuit arising from Sotera’s EtO emissions to go to trial found Sotera liable for the plaintiff’s cancer. Specifically, the jury awarded the plaintiff $363 million in damages, including $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages. The jury cited Sotera’s and Sterigenics’ “willful and wanton” misconduct in not preventing toxic EtO emissions, and failing to warn about the severe health hazard posed by the Company’s Illinois facility. As a result of these disclosures, Sotera’s stock price declined by $4.90 per share, or 33.3%, from $14.73 per share on September 16, 2022, to $9.83 per share on September 19, 2022. In turn, analysts downgraded Sotera stock, causing the stock price to decline further. As of September 21, 2022, Sotera’s stock traded at $7.32 per share, or more than 68% below the IPO price and nearly 73% below the SPO price.
What Now: Similarly situated shareholders may be eligible to participate in the class action against Sotera. Shareholders who want to act as lead plaintiff for the class must file their papers by March 27, 2023. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation. You do not have to participate in the case to be eligible for a recovery.
All representation is on a contingency fee basis. Shareholders pay no fees or expenses.