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Sterigenics’ landlord Prologis comes under fire in court arguments

Attorney’s say unsafe chemical emissions caused more than 300 cases of cancer and other serious illness throughout the community.
Updated: Dec. 17, 2021 at 1:20 PM EST
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ATLANTA (CBS46) — It’s up to a Cobb State Court judge to decide if a landlord can be held responsible for its tenants operations.

Hundreds of people in and around Smyrna allege Sterigenics sterilization facility used a known carcinogen that caused them to develop cancer or other illnesses. Their landlord, Prologis, is now also coming under fire.

CBS46 investigative reporter Rachel Polansky was the first to get her hands on the court records, in November, filed not only against the plant itself, Sterigenics, but also against its landlord, Prologis. Plaintiffs allege the company did not repair or maintain the facility as it was required too and may have exposed hundreds more to toxic gas.

Attorneys brought these claims before Cobb State Court Judge Jane Manning. She did not make a ruling but said she’d try to get an order out shortly. More than 300 people allege that “unsafe ethylene oxide emissions” at Sterigenics caused them or their family members to develop lymphoma, leukemia, breast cancer or brain cancer.

“Our communities are being poisoned, and these companies are knowingly putting people at risk,” said Roxanne Gil, one of the plaintiffs on the case.

Roxanne’s 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, battled leukemia. Roxanne’s 2-year-old daughter, Roslyn, was born with a genetic abnormality. At the time, the Gil family was living in Smyrna, just a few miles from the Sterigenics plant on Olympic Drive.

Olivia was diagnosed with Leukemia. Roslyn was born with a genetic abnormality. At the time,...
Olivia was diagnosed with Leukemia. Roslyn was born with a genetic abnormality. At the time, the Gil family was living in Smyrna, just a few miles from the Sterigenics plant on Olympic Drive(CBS46)

“Too odd to be a coincidence, in my opinion,” Gil said.

Ethylene oxide or EtO is a flammable, colorless gas that the EPA categorized as a cancer-causing agent in 2016.

Court filings obtained by CBS46 Investigates allege that landlord Prologis, “failed to maintain the Sterigenic facility’s roof and walls such that EtO has been able to escape into the surrounding community.”

That was the basis of the argument made by plaintiffs’ attorney, Cale Conley, in court.

“Over the last ten years, there have been holes in the roof, sufficient for water to come into the chamber in the area where eTo is utilized. If water can flow in during rain, gas can flow out when there’s not rain,” Conley said.

But attorney Michael D’Orio, who represents Prologis, looks at things differently. He says an “out-of-possession landlord” is not responsible for its tenants operations.

“When we hand it over, we don’t have anything to do with Sterigenics business. We have no control of it. We have no knowledge of it. It’s their business,” D’Orio said.

While he claims Prologis has nothing to do with Sterigenics business, according to court documents obtained by CBS46 Investigates, a Prologis property manager emailed a roofing company in July 2017, “submitted a roof leak request. This building’s roof is killing me.” That August, she emailed him again, “I’m dying… it’s like we could’ve put a new roof on this one already this year.”

“This whole defense of ‘We don’t know what they’re doing over there. We don’t have anything to do with their business. What eTo?’ They absolutely do,” Conley added.

Another issue brought up in court: Can a landlord be held responsible for alleged injuries or illnesses, off site? D’Orio said no because none of the plaintiffs were injured on the Prologis property.

“Prologis is only in this case because we own the property where ethylene oxide is used,” D’Orio said.

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