MDL Sought for Toxic Baby Food Lawsuits Over Autism, ADHD Caused By Metal Contamination
With nearly a dozen autism lawsuits and ADHD lawsuits against baby food manufacturers pending throughout the federal court system, each raising similar concerns that products were contaminated with heavy metals for years, a group of plaintiffs are asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to transfer the claims to one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Each of the plaintiffs are pursuing separate toxic baby food lawsuits against Gerber, Hain Celestial, Inc. Nurture, Inc or other baby food manufacturers, following the discovery that widely used products contained high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, which are known to increase the risk of infants developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
With common questions of fact and law raised in at least 11 claims pending in different U.S. District Courts, and hundreds of additional claims actively being investigated by lawyers for families nationwide, a motion to transfer (PDF) was filed on January 4, indicating that the claims should be consolidated and centralized to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings, reduce duplicative discovery and to serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the judicial system.
Lead, Arsenic and Mercury in Baby Food
The baby food litigation first emerged in April 2021, after a U.S. Congressional report highlighted internal documents and testing results for products sold by a number of companies, indicating that many baby foods contain toxic levels metals that may pose serious health risks for children, with more than 91 times the maximum level of arsenic allowed in bottled water; 177 times the allowable levels of lead, 69 times the limits on cadmium, and five times the levels of allowable mercury.
Despite calls from health experts and regulators for manufacturers to entirely remove the contaminants from their products, subsequent testing has found that toxic heavy metals in baby food remain a pervasive problem, with popular brands sold by Gerber, Plum Organics, Sprout, Walmart and others still having potentially dangerous levels.
Since then, a steadily growing number of toxic baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits have been filed by families nationwide, alleging that manufacturers played on the parents’ trust that products would be safe, concealing the levels of toxic heavy metals present for years. The lawsuits indicate the defendants knew that if consumers were aware of the high levels of toxic metals that parents would never willingly agree to purchase.
2024 Motion for Toxic Baby Food Multidistrict Litigation
According to the motion, there are currently at least 11 baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits filed by ten different law firms in seven different federal district courts, each alleging the same wrongful conduct. The complaints indicate that the baby food products were not adequately tested for harmful heavy metals and that Defendants’ food labeling was false and misleading, failing to disclose material facts.
Among other common allegations raised against the baby food manufacturers are unjust enrichment, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligence, gross negligence, strict product liability, breach of express warranty, and breach of implied warranty.
The plaintiffs are requesting all related actions be centralized for coordinated pretrial proceedings in one of four U.S. District Courts, where the majority of cases are currently pending. These include the;
- District of Nevada where two actions are pending involving 8 plaintiffs,
- Northern District of California where three actions are pending involving four plaintiffs,
- Central District of California where two actions are pending involving 2 plaintiffs, and the
- Eastern District of Louisiana where the first baby food personal injury lawsuit was filed.
However, the motion requests the claim currently pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana to be be carved out of any centralized proceeding given its advanced stages, as parties are in the midst of wrapping up fact discovery and expert disclosures with a pending trial date set for August 12, 2024.
While a group of plaintiffs previously sought to consolidate a number of baby food class action and personal injury lawsuits in to single multi-district litigation, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) denied the request in late 2021, resulting in cases against various different manufacturers moving forward independently in a number of different jurisdictions nationwide.
However, the newly filed motion argues that with a growing number of claims currently filed in seven different federal district courts spanning across three federal circuits, consolidation is necessary for the convenience of the court to avoid duplicative discovery processes and inconsistent rulings.
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