Infant Formula NEC Injury Lawsuit Filed Against Similac, Enfamil Manufacturers

A premature infant suffered permanent injuries after suffering NEC twice, resulting in permanent infant formula injuries

The makers of Similac and Enfamil face yet another lawsuit brought by the mother of a child left with long-term and life-altering infant formula necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) injuries, indicating that the cow’s milk products were promoted for use among premature babies, despite the significant health risks compared to breast milk.

The complaint (PDF) was filed on March 15 by Alyhana Childs, the parent and guardian of a minor child only identified as S.S., pursuing damages from Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company, LLC, for failing to warn parents or medical providers about the NEC injury risk in preterm infants.

According to the lawsuit, S.S. was born premature at birth and was fed both Similac and Enfamil while still in the NICU at George Washington University Hospital, resulting in a diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which is a devastating disease where the walls of the intestines are invaded by bacteria, leading to destruction of the bowel and often requiring emergency surgery.

NEC is an injury that mostly impacts premature and low birth weight infants, and a growing body of research has found that the risk is substantially greater after use of Similac or Enfamil, compared to babies who receive breast milk alone.

S.S. was born in May 2007 at 30 weeks gestation, weighing only two pounds and 12.6 ounces. He was immediately sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While his mother was successful in pumping and providing her own breast milk for S.S., the baby boy was also fed infant formula to promote growth and weight gain.

“The companies who manufacture these products often intentionally mislabel and misrepresent the contents of the products both to the public at-large and to the health care community, passing off these deadly products as something similar to or even superior to human breast milk,” the lawsuit states. “Tragically, baby S.S., who was premature at birth, was fed these cow’s milk-based products, developed NEC, and suffered significant injuries as a result.”

The infant was diagnosed with NEC in late May 2007, and put on triple antibiotics, However, he was diagnosed with NEC a second time in mid-June 2007, and had to undergo an exploratory laparotomy.

During the surgery, doctors discovered multiple perforations and a severe stricture in the infant’s bowels, and he had to undergo resection surgery. As a result, large portions of his bowels have been removed and he will likely continue to suffer bowel-related distress, pain and suffering for the rest of his life, according to the lawsuit.

The case joins a growing number of Similac NEC lawsuits and Enfamil NEC lawsuits now being pursued by families nationwide, alleging that Abbott and Mead Johnson promoted their cow’s milk-based products to parents, physicians and medical providers as safe products, often suggesting that the formula was specifically needed by preterm infants for adequate growth.

“Despite the knowledge of the significant health risks posted to preterm infants ingesting the Cow’s Milk-Based Products, including the significant risk of NEC and death, Defendants did not warn parents or medical providers of the risk of NEC in preterm infants, nor did Defendants provide any instructions or guidance on how to properly use its Cow’s Milk-Based Products so as to lower the risk or avoid NEC or death,” the complaint states.

Given similar allegations raised in a growing number of NEC injury lawsuits being pursued throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is scheduled to consider arguments later this month over whether the cases should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

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