Similac Special Care NEC Lawsuit Alleges Preterm Infant’s Gastrointestinal Injuries Caused by Baby Formula

Abbott failed to warn new parents or the medical community about the risks of Similac Special Care causing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), the lawsuit alleges.

The mother of a 12-year-old Maryland girl says her daughter has been left with severe and permanent gastrointestinal injuries from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), after she was fed Similac Special Care infant formula while still in the hospital after birth.

The complaint (PDF) was filed earlir this month by Chante Watson, on behalf of herself and her daughter, Anaya Jackson, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The lawsuit names Abbott Laboratories as the defendant, indicating that the company has withheld information from parents and the medical community for decades about the risks Similac may pose for preterm infants.

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.

Watson’s complaint joins a growing number of similar infant formula NEC lawsuits filed against the makers of Similac and Enfamil, each raising similar allegations that both Abbott and Mead Johnson placed their desire for profits ahead of the safety of newborns, and that marketing claims have driven many families away from safer breastfeeding or donor milk alternatives.

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Baby Formula Lawsuits

Premature infants fed Similac or Enfamil cow's milk formula faced increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or wrongful death.


According to the complaint, Anaya Jackson was born prematurely in October 2011, requiring that she be admitted and treated in the hospital’s NICU. During that time, the baby was fed Similac Special Care formula, which caused NEC to develop, leaving Jackson with ongoing gastrointestinal injuries that will impact her for the rest of her life.

The Similac Special Care NEC lawsuit indicates that Jackson’s injuries, as well as the injuries of many other young children, could have been avoided if the manufacturer had provided adequate warnings about cow’s milk-based infant formula risks to the medical community and consumers.

“Despite the knowledge of the significant health risks posed to preterm infants ingesting the Cow’s Milk-Based Products, including the significant risk of NEC, Defendant did not warn parents or medical providers of the risk of NEC in preterm infants, nor did Defendant provide any instructions or guidance on how to properly use its Cow’s Milk-Based Products so as to lower the risk or avoid NEC,” Watson’s lawsuit states. “In fact, Defendant did not provide any warning in its labeling, websites, or marketing that warns that its Cow’s Milk-Based Products exponentially increase the risk of NEC in preterm infants, or that human breast milk, donor breast milk, and human breast milk-based formulas and fortifiers are much safer for preterm babies than its Cow’s Milk-Based Products.”

The lawsuit presents claims of strict liability, design defect, negligence, failure to warn, loss of consortium, services and medical expenses. Watson seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

April 2024 Infant Formula NEC Lawsuits Update

A growing body of research has found that cow’s milk-based infant formula like Enfamil and Similac greatly increases the risk of NEC among premature infants, compared to use of a mother’s breast milk or donor human milk. However, the formula manufacturers have faced sharp criticism in recent years for withholding known information about the risk, and even promoting certain versions of their products for use among preterm infants.

Most Similac lawsuits and Enfamil 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.

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 in the federal court system 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 end 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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