Infant Formula NEC Lawsuit Filed Against Similac and Enfamil Makers in Pennsylvania State Court

Mother indicates the manufacturers knew for years that Enfamil and Similac increase NEC risks for preterm babies, but continued to market the infant formula as safe for hospitals and parents to use.

After her premature newborn developed serious and life threatening gastrointestinal injuries while still in the hospital after birth, a Pennsylvania mother has filed a lawsuit against the makers of Similac and Enfamil, as well as the hospital where the child was delivered, indicating that the infant formula caused necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which has left the child with life-long health complications.

The complaint (PDF) was filed on February 7 in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County by Nikia Tucker, on behalf of herself, and as the mother of her minor child, identified with the initials N.B. The lawsuit names Mead Johnson & Company, Mead Johnson Nutrition Company, Abbott Laboratories and Albert Einstein Medical Center as the defendants.

According to allegations raised in the infant formula NEC lawsuit, N.B. was born prematurely at the medical center, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at only 34 weeks gestation in May 2022. After the young girl’s birth, the complaint states she was fed cow’s milk-based Enfamil and Similac infant formula by hospital staff.

N.B. then developed NEC, and suffered bowel perforation, gastrointestinal issues, developmental delays, feeding difficulties and growth issues, leaving her with long-term health effects. Shortly after birth she had to undergo antibiotic treatment and life-saving surgical procedures due to infant formula NEC, the lawsuit alleges.

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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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Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) primarily impacts premature babies, occurring when harmful bacteria breaches the walls of the intestines, causing portions of the tissue to become inflamed or die. The condition often results in the need for emergency surgery while the baby is still in the NICU, and many infants do not survive NEC.

“Preterm and low-birth-weight infants are especially susceptible to NEC because of their underdeveloped digestive systems,” Tucker’s lawsuit states. “Extensive scientific research, including numerous randomized controlled trials, has confirmed that cow’s milk-based feeding products cause NEC in preterm and low-birth-weight infants, which in turn may lead to other medical complications, surgeries, long-term health problems, and death.”

Tucker now joins a growing number of other families of preterm infants from throughout the United States who are pursuing an infant formula NEC lawsuit against Similac and Enfamil maker, each raising similar allegations that both Abbott and Mead Johnson placed their desire for profits ahead of the safety of babies, and that marketing claims have driven many families away from safer breastfeeding or donor milk alternatives.

February 2024 Infant Formula NEC Lawsuit Update

While Tucker’s lawsuit is one of the few claims filed at the state court level, since it includes claims against the local hospital, most Similac NEC lawsuits and Enfamil NEC lawsuits are currently pending in the federal court system, where claims brought nationwide have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

According to a docket report issued on February 1, there are currently at least 389 complaints centralized before Judge Pallmeyer, each involving similar claims against the manufacturers, indicating that premature babies developed the devastating intestinal disease shortly after being fed the cow’s milk-based infant formula while still in the NICU, often resulting in fatal injuries or the need for emergency surgery to remove large sections of the intestines.

Families allege that the makers of Similac and Enfamil knew about the baby formula NEC risks for premature infants, yet continued to market and promote their products to hospitals, doctors and parents, without warning about the problems.

Last year Judge Pallmeyer had the parties select four infant formula NEC lawsuits for an initial bellwether trial pool, to serve as early test cases to see how juries will respond to common evidence and arguments likely to be repeated in hundreds of similar claims.

While the date the first NEC bellwether trial will begin has not yet been scheduled, Judge Pallmeyer has previously indicated the cases will be spaced about 12 weeks apart, and prior scheduling orders suggested the claims would be ready to go before juries by the second half of 2024.

As the bellwether trial process continues, baby formula lawyers are continuing to review and file new claims for families nationwide, and the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow throughout 2024. Following the four early trial dates, if the parties fail to negotiate NEC lawsuit settlements for families, 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.

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