NEC Lawsuit Blames Similac and Enfamil for 5-Day Old Infant’s Death

The girl suffered vomiting, pain, and two cardiac arrests due to the side effects of Similac and Enfamil, the NEC lawsuit claims

The tragic death of a five-day-old baby is being blamed on Similac and Enfamil infant formula side effects, according to a necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) lawsuit filed by the baby’s mother.

Lizbeth Mejia was born pre-term at only 37 weeks on May 13, 2020, to Estela and Elvin Mejia. By May 18, the child had died after experiencing vomiting episodes, and two cardiac arrests. Her death was determined to be caused by diffuse necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which her parents say was caused by being fed cow’s milk-based preterm infant formula products, including Similac and Enfamil.

The complaint (PDF) was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, pursuing claims against the manufacturers of the cow’s milk-based formula, Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company.

In recent years, a growing body of research has found that the risk of a premature newborn NEC diagnosis is substantially greater after being fed Similac or Enfamil, compared to babies who receive breast milk alone. However, the Majians family and other parents nationwide now pursuing a NEC lawsuit settlement allege that the manufacturers withheld warnings from families and medical providers about the risk, and intentionally provided false and misleading information about the safety of cow-based milk products for premature infants.

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).

Although Abbott and Mead Johnson knew for years that NEC is substantially more likely among premature babies fed the formula instead of breast milk, plaintiffs say they intentionally misled parents and the medical community, and enticed them to take even more risks with infant lives through deceptive marketing practices, free samples, and advertising campaigns designed to shame parents into not questioning the safety of their products.

“Preterm and low-birth-weight infants are especially susceptible to NEC because of their underdeveloped digestive systems,” the 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.”

The NEC wrongful death lawsuit filed by Eestela and Elvin Mejia joins a growing litigation that is being pursued against Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson, which is centralized in the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

A separate motion has been filed to centralize all Similac lawsuits filed over recent problems with bacterial contamination, which has resulted in massive recalls in recent months. The JPML is expected to decide sometime this summer whether separate pretrial proceedings should be coordinated for these claims, or whether they should also be overseen by Judge Pallmeyer.

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