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Baby Formula NEC Lawsuit Information

You may be entitled to financial compensation through a NEC lawsuit if your premature baby developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) from toxic baby formula given in the NICU.

If your premature infant was fed formula and developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), you may be able to file a lawsuit.

A recent scientific study discovered a link between their cow-milk baby formulas and a digestive disease, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Many parents are now suing Abbott Laboratories, the maker of Similac, and Mead Johnson and Company, the company behind Enfamil.

What Is NEC?
NEC – short for necrotizing enterocolitis – is a gastrointestinal bacterial infection that largely affects premature babies. This life-threatening illness causes inflammation, tissue death of the intestines, and perforation of the wall of the intestines. NEC begins in the intestinal wall’s inner lining, and it affects the intestines’ thickness.

Treatment includes ceasing feedings (fasting), administering antibiotics and IV fluids and nutrition, draining abdominal fluids, nasogastric drainage, circulatory support, and possibly abdominal repair surgery. NEC – if caught and treated promptly – can be curable with no complications.

Possible consequences of NEC – or the surgery to treat NEC – include:

  • Sepsis (from intestinal bacteria draining out into the abdominal cavity)
  • Peritonitis (an abdominal infection)
  • Narrowing of the intestinal wall, called intestinal stricture
  • Short bowel syndrome, which may cause malabsorption (and may require a bowel transplant)
  • Holes in the intestines (causing waste to leak out)
  • Neurodevelopmental problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Organ failure or damage caused by decreased oxygen supply
  • Growth failure
  • Scarring
  • Liver failure (IFALD)
  • Death (if the NEC is not treated quickly) up to 50% of the time

Potential symptoms of NEC are:

  • Not gaining weight
  • Trouble eating/feeding residuals
  • Bloody diarrhea or dark stools
  • Constipation
  • Ileus (decreased sounds in the bowel)
  • Yellow or green vomit
  • Jaundice
  • Pain, redness, tenderness and/or swelling (distension) in the abdomen
  • Low breathing, temperature, blood pressure (hypotension), and heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Lethargy
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Green fluid in the abdominal wall
  • Apnea (paused breathing)
  • Lowered peripheral perfusion

Symptoms of advanced NEC include:

  • Abdominal wall erythema
  • Shock
  • Cardiovascular collapse

NEC is diagnosed through:

  • blood tests and cultures
  • abdominal imaging (CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds)
  • blood gas level tests
  • a physician’s clinical observations

Of the 480,000 preterm infants born every year in the United States, about 9,000 come down with NEC. And 90% of those NEC cases occur in preterm infants.

The four types of NEC are 1) classic NEC; 2) transfusion-associated NEC; 3) Atypical NEC; and 4) Term infant NEC. Most of the bovine formula-related cases involve “classic NEC.”

NEC can also develop as a result from being born with underdeveloped intestines or from oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery.

Which Formulas are Linked to NEC?

Cow’s milk-based formulas – such as Enfamil and Similac – make it more likely that premature babies (before 37 full weeks) will suffer from the bowel disease necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC typically develops in preemies being fed this formula when they are two-to-six weeks old.

Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) often rely on cow-milk formula – which is high in calories – to provide preemies with nutrition and immune support and to help them gain weight. This formula is also used to supplement nutrition for breastfeeding preemies with latching difficulties.1

Similac products that contain cow’s milk ingredients include:

  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Alimentum Expert Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein- Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Special Care
  • Similac Special Care 20
  • Similac Special Care 24
  • Similac Special Care 24 High ProteinSimilac Special Care 30

Enfamil products that contain cow’s milk ingredients include:

  • Enfamil 24 and DHA & ARA Supplement
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein
  • Enfamil Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
  • Enfacare Powder
  • Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal/fl oz HP
  • Enfamil Premature 30 Cal

The product name “Human Milk Fortifier” is misleading. A reasonable person might believe it contains human milk, but it does not.

What is the Current State of Litigation?

We will continually post litigation updates in this section.

May 23, 2022 Update: The baby formula NEC clas action lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois (In re: Abbott Laboratories, et al., Preterm Infant Nutrition Prod. Liab. Lit.- MDL No. 3026) is officially underway. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer has been assigned to the MDL class action.  The judge held her opening status conference last week on May 19. Within the next two weeks, Judge Pallmeyer is expected to announce her selections for the plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel, Liaison Counsel and leadership committee. A total of 52 cases are pending in the MDL as of May 16, 2022. That number is expected to triple by next month.

May 4, 2022 Update: There are now three baby formula class action lawsuits.  There is a baby formula NEC class action in federal court.  Illinois state court also has roped off NEC lawsuits lawsuits filed in that state from all over the country.  We also have a Similac recall class action lawsuit that does not involve NEC.  All three pieces of litigation are moving forward.  

April 11, 2022 Update:  We now have an NEC baby formula class action lawsuit in federal court. The JPML issued a transfer order which consolidates all pending NEC infant formula lawsuits into a new mass tort MDL: In re: Abbott Laboratories, et al., Preterm Infant Nutrition Products Liab. Lit. (MDL No. 3026). The NEC formula MDL has been assigned to Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois. Illinois was the venue preferred by the plaintiffs' NEC baby formula lawyers. The defendants (Abbott and Mead Johnson) were ironically pushing to leave their home state and put the MDL NEC class action in Connecticut. Now every NEC infant formula lawsuit in federal court will be transferred into the MDL for consolidated pretrial proceedings.

April 1, 2022 Update: Just over 40 NEC formula lawsuits have been filed against Mead and Abbott in federal courts over the last year. Twelve of these NEC lawsuits in federal court were filed in March 2022.   As we discuss below, there is also a mini-class action NEC lawsuit in Illinois. 

March 31, 2022 Update: The Supreme Court of Illinois previously granted the request to consolidate a group of about 20 NEC formula cases pending in Illinois state courts before a single judge (Dennis Ruth) in Circuit Court for Madison County. This effectively created a mini-MDL NEC class action lawsuit at the state court level. Now, however, Abbott is seeking to have the consolidated cases transferred from Madison County to either Cook County (Chicago) or Lake County, under the doctrine of forum nonconveniens (inconvenient forum). 

Why do you care about the Illinois baby formula lawsuits if you live in California, Texas, New York, or any other state outside of Illinois?  Because many NEC baby formula lawsuits will file lawsuits in Illinois even if the claim arose in another jurisdiction.  

March 1, 2022 Update It looks like an NEC baby formula class action lawsuit that will house all federal court NEC lawsuits is coming.  The only question is whether the class action will be housed in Connecticut or Illinois.  

Last week, Mead Johnson, the maker of Enfamil, advised the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) that it was in favor of consolidating the NEC lawsuits into a new NEC MDL class action. In January 2022,  Abbott, the manufacturer of Similac, filed a petition with the JPML requesting the formation of a new MDL for the consolidation of all NEC infant formula lawsuits in the federal courts.  

Abbott's attorneys are requesting the District of Connecticut, while lawyers for NEC plaintiffs' lawyers favor the Northern District of Illinois where Abbott is headquartered. 

What Will Be The Most Important Factor in NEC Infant Formula Settlement Amounts?

The cases with the highest value settlement amounts or trial value if this litigation is successful is the case where the child needs ongoing care and pain and suffering. The economic cost of lifelong care for many of these children is in the millions of dollars.

The next highest settlement amounts are likely to be wrongful death cases. It is just awful to lose a child because no one ever told you that the formula she was taking could be causing the child harm. The settlement amounts in these NEC lawsuits could be in the $250,000 to $750,000 range. 

In cases where the child endured a great deal of suffering but ultimately recovered, the necrotizing enterocolitis compensation payouts may still be high. These NEC lawsuits could be in the range of $50,000 to $400,000 depending upon the injuries.

Our lawyers are speculating amount the potential settlement compensation payouts in these NEC baby formula lawsuits. 

This litigation is new. These are just estimates. So take these "how much compensation" estimates you get here or elsewhere with the grains of salt they deserve. 

NEC Lawsuit Against Similac and Enfamil Baby Formula
Financial benefits may be available through a NEC lawsuit payout if your premature baby developed necrotizing enterocolitis from toxic baby formula given in the NICU.

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