Enfamil Lawsuit Claims Preemie Developed NEC After Being Fed Cow’s Milk-Based Infant Formula

California mother indicates that Enfamil infant formula is "far more dangerous than most prescription drugs" for premature infants, increasing the risk of a devastating gastrointestinal condition.

According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed by a California woman, Mead Johnson’s Enfamil infant formula is unfit for consumption by premature babies, indicating that her child developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed the cow’s milk-based formula while still in the hospital after birth.

The complaint (PDF) was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Tanika Graham, on behalf of herself and her minor child, identified only as A.W., alleging that Mead Johnson intentionally exploits vulnerable families for financial gain, by withholding critical information about the link between Enfamil and NEC for premature infants.

NEC is a devastating condition, which occurs when an infants intestinal tissue becomes inflamed and dies, often resulting in the need for emergency surgery or fatal injuries.

Although there is a growing body of research that has found that cow’s milk-based infant formula like Enfamil and Similac greatly increases the risk among premature infants, Graham indicates that Mead Johnson has done nothing to stop or lessen the risks associated with their products, and has continued to promote Enfamil formula and fortifier products for use among preemies.

Graham now join a number of other parents of preterm infants nationwide who are pursuing NEC infant formula lawsuits against Mead Johnson and Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures competing Similac products. Both Enfamil and Similac are cow’s milk-based formula, which have been linked to the development of NEC among preterm infants.

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Premature infants fed Similac or Enfamil cow's milk formula faced increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or wrongful death.

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According to the lawsuit filed by Graham, A.W. was born prematurely in September 2007, and was fed Enfamil premature infant formula and Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier after birth. Shortly after, A.W. developed NEC, which was treated and then returned.

Graham indicates A.W. suffered severe complications and injuries, had to undergo surgery, and continues to suffer severe, long-term health effects due to Enfamil formula. She indicates neither she, nor doctors, were warned that the cow’s milk-based formulas significantly increased the risk of NEC, particularly in premature infants.

“Despite knowing for decades that their Cow’s Milk Products are associated with and are significantly increasing NEC and death in premature infants, and are far more dangerous than most prescription drugs, Defendants have done nothing to stop or lessen NEC or death,” Graham states in the lawsuit. “If Defendants had performed the pharmacovigilance required by drug manufacturers for their premature infant formulas and fortifiers, which a reasonably prudent manufacturer would have done, Defendants’ Cow’s Milk Products would not have been fed to A.W.., she would not have developed NEC, and she would not have suffered the devastating effects of NEC.”

Graham’s lawsuit presents claims of strict liability, design defect, failure to warn, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

June 2024 Enfamil and Similac NEC Lawsuits

There are currently more than 500 Similac NEC lawsuits and Enfamil NEC lawsuits pending in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that manufacturers placed their desire for profits before consumers safety, by withholding information from families and the medical communities, and engaging in misleading marketing that has driving mothers away from breast feeding.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, consolidated pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system, where all complaints are currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, Judge Pallmeyer has established a bellwether program in which a small group of 12 NEC lawsuits were selected for detailed case-specific discovery. Late last year, the parties narrowed the claims down to four individual lawsuits that are expected to be ready to go before juries by the end of 2024, with cases spaced about 12 weeks apart.

Following the early trial dates, if the parties fail to negotiate infant formula NEC lawsuit settlements, it is then likely that Judge Pallmeyer will start remanding dozens of individual claims back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates. However, as baby formula lawyers continue to review and file new claims for families nationwide, the size of the litigation is still expected to continue to grow throughout 2024.

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