Infant Formula Lawyers Appointed to Leadership Positions for MDL Over Recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare

The judge has appointed 12 infant formula lawyers to positions where they will work for the benefit of all plaintiffs who say their children were sickened or killed by recalled Similac, Ailmentum or EleCare.

The U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal infant formula lawsuits involving recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products has appointed a group of 12 lawyers to serve in various leadership positions during the multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings.

Abbott Laboratories recalled Similac, Alimentum and Elecare formula products earlier this year, after disclosing that powdered formula manufactured at a Michigan facility may be contaminated with Salmonella Newport and Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria. .

At least two infant deaths and dozens of illnesses have been reported by parents who fed the recalled formula to their children, and a growing number of lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that Abbott knew about the contamination problems for months, but continued to sell the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formula to families nationwide.

The Similac recall litigation has been centralized as part of an MDL before U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois, where Abbott is already facing a number of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) lawsuits brought by parents of premature infants who developed a devastating gastrointestinal illness caused by cow’s milk-based infant formula products. However, the NEC lawsuits are centralized before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer as part of a separate MDL.

On September 8, Judge Kennelly issued a case management order (PDF) which appointed 12 attorneys to plaintiff leadership positions in the litigation, including two attorneys assigned as co-lead counsel and 10 assigned to form a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.

These infant formula lawyers will take certain actions during the pretrial proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs presenting claims, including arguing motions, taking depositions of common witnesses, reviewing discovery documents and other actions.

Within days after Abbott first announced the Similac formula recall, parents began filing individual and class action lawsuits, alleging that Abbott’s Sturgis, Michigan manufacturing facility ignored industry safety standards and best practices, endangering infants for the sake of profit. It is ultimately expected that several thousand complaints will be centralized as part of this MDL.

Similac NEC Lawsuits Against Abbott

This Similac recall MDL will be managed separately from a different consolidated proceeding established months earlier before Judge Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes all Similac NEC lawsuits and Enfamil NEC lawsuits, involving allegations that the baby formula makers failed to adequately warn parents and the medical community about the risks associated with feeding the cow’s milk products to premature infants.

Although Abbott and other companies have marketed cow’s milk formula as safe and effective for premature infants, research has found it increases the risk of NEC, which is a devastating disease that occurs when the wall of the under-developed intestine is invaded by bacteria, leading to destruction of the bowel and often resulting in the need for emergency surgery while the baby is still in the NICU.

As a result of the NEC risk from Similac and other cow’s milk formula products, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued an updated policy statement urging parents to avoid feeding newborns infant formula, and calling for infants to be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

While the NEC formula lawsuits and Similac recall lawsuits will both be coordinated out of the Northern District of Illinois, discovery and pretrial proceedings in the two separate proceedings will likely proceed on different schedules, which are expected to involve “bellwether” programs to schedule small groups of representative cases for early trial dates to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Similac settlements are not reached following the MDL proceedings, each individual claim may be remanded back to separate U.S. District Courts nationwide for future trial dates.

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