Enfamil Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed After Preterm Infant Contracts Fatal Case of NEC

Parents of a preterm infant who died of NEC have filed an Enfamil lawsuit claiming Mead Johnson has provided misleading information about the safety of its baby formula products.

A Texas couple has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mead Johnson, alleging that a preterm infant developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) from Enfamil formula, which turned deadly.

Ashley and Jimmy Lollar filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on May 20, pursuing damages for the death of their newborn child, identified only with the initials H.G.L. in the lawsuit.

According to allegations raised in the complaint, Mead Johnson knew about the link between Enfamil and NEC for premature infants, yet withheld critical warnings and information from families and medical providers, intentionally providing false and misleading statements about the safety of the cow-based milk products for preemies.

According to the Lollar’s lawsuit, H.G.L. was born preterm at only 27 weeks on August 15, 2015. She only weighed about three pounds and two ounces. The infant did fine at first, and was originally fed donor breast milk. However, the hospital then switched her to formula and began feeding her Enfamil, which almost immediately resulted in the baby showing signs of illness, the lawsuit claims.

“On September 17, 2015, Baby H.G.L. underwent an exploratory laparotomy,” the lawsuit states. “Although her condition initially improved after the surgery, her health soon declined rapidly. Baby H.G.L. died from necrotizing enterocolitis the night of September 17, 2015.”

NEC is a devastating intestinal disease that primarily impacts premature babies, where the wall of the intestines is invaded by bacteria, leading to destruction of the bowel and often resulting in the need for emergency surgery while the infant is still in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The Enfamil wrongful death lawsuit points to a growing body of medical research and scientific literature published over the past decade, which highlights the risk of NEC among premature infants, when compared to babies fed exclusively a mother’s breast milk or human donor milk. However, rather than warning about the risk, the company aggressively promoted Enfamil for premature infants, often suggesting the formula was superior or equivalent to breast milk.

“The Defendants have separately designed competing, systemic, powerful and misleading marketing campaigns to deceive mothers to believe that: (1) Cow’s Milk formula and fortifiers are safe; (2) Cow’s Milk Products are equal, or even superior, substitutes to breastmilk; and (3) physicians consider their Cow’s Milk Products a first choice,” according to the complaint. “Similarly, the Defendants market their products for preterm infants as necessary for growth, and perfectly safe for preterm infants, despite knowing of the extreme risks posed by Cow’s Milk Products and failing to warn of the deadly disease of NEC and risk of death.”

With the filing of the complaint, the Lollers join a growing number of families throughout the United States now pursuing baby formula NEC settlements from Mead Johnson and Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturers of the competing cow’s milk formula Similac. Given common questions of fact and law raised in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation has recently been centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois.

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