JMPL to Reconsider Consolidation of Baby Food Autism and ADHD Lawsuits Over Toxic Metal Contamination

Baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits are being pursued by parents throughout the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that toxic heavy metals remain a pervasive problem in baby food products, despite the known risks.

A panel of federal judges has agreed to hear oral arguments next month, to reconsider a prior ruling about whether all toxic baby food lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system should be consolidated before one federal judge for coordinated discovery pretrial proceedings.

It will be the second time since 2021 that the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has considered consolidating the AHDH and autism lawsuits against Gerber, Hain Celestial, Inc., Nurture, Inc. and other baby food manufacturers, following the discovery that widely used products have contained high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury for years.

The toxic heavy metals are known to increase the risk of infants developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and parents seek financial compensation for life-long disabilities their children now suffer.

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.

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Baby Food Lawsuits

Toxic baby food sold by Gerber, Beech-Nut and other manufacturers contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, which may be the cause of autism and severe ADHD for children.

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With common questions of fact and law raised in at least 10 claims pending in six different U.S. District Courts, and hundreds of additional claims actively being investigated by lawyers for families nationwide, a motion to transfer 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.

The U.S. JPML issued a Hearing Session Order (PDF) on February 16, indicating it will hear oral arguments from both parties over whether to consolidate all baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits before one federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. The hearing is scheduled for March 28 in the U.S. District Court Hollings Judicial Annex in Charleston South Carolina.

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 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.

The plaintiffs have requested that all related actions, except for one already well-advanced case in Louisiana, 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, the Northern District of California, the Central District of California, or the Eastern District of Louisiana.

If an MDL is established, the lawsuits will be transferred to wherever the U.S. JPML centralizes the pretrial proceedings. However, if the parties fail to negotiate baby food autism and ADHD lawsuit settlements during the MDL proceedings, each individual claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.

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