Similac Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed After Preterm Infant Dies from NEC Complications
An Ohio woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the makers of Similac, indicating that her premature child developed a fatal intestinal complication known as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and died just five days after birth, as a direct result of the cow’s milk-based infant formula.
The complaint (PDF) was brought by Deandrea Clark in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on June 13, indicating that Abbott Laboratories knew or should have known about the link between Similac and NEC among premature babies, but withheld information from parents and the medical community.
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 NEC.
Clark’s lawsuit indicates Abbott has implemented a systematic, powerful and misleading marketing campaign that was intended to deceive parents into believing that it’s formula and fortifier products were safe substitutes for breast milk, which is not the case.
She now joins other families of preterm infants nationwide who are now pursuing a NEC lawsuit against the Similac makers, with a number of similar claims also being pursued against Mead Johnson over problems linked to their competing cow’s milk infant formula products, marketed under the brand name Enfamil, alleging that the desire for profits has been placed ahead of the safety of babies, and driven many families away from safer breastfeeding or donor milk alternatives.
The lawsuit indicates Clark’s child, identified only as “A.K.” in the complaint, was born prematurely on August 1, 2021. She was given Similac cow’s milk-based infant formula products, including Similac Special Care 24 and Similac Neosure, while in the hospital and developed NEC on August 5. However, her condition quickly deteriorated and she died the next day, on August 6.
Clark indicates that Abbott has long known about the risks its cow’s milk-based infant formula products present to preterm newborns but has failed to warn parents and the medical community of the risks, which she says cost her newborn daughter’s life.
“Despite the knowledge of the significant health risks posed to preterm infants ingesting the Cow’s Milk Products, including the significant risk of NEC and serious injury or death, Defendant did not warn parents or medical providers of the risk of NEC, nor did Defendant provide any instructions or guidance on how to properly use its Cow’s Milk Products so as to lower the risk or avoid NEC or serious injury,” Clark’s lawsuit states. “In fact, Defendant does not provide any warning in its labeling, websites or marketing that discusses the risk of NEC and death with use of their Cow’s Milk Products with preterm infants.”
The lawsuit presents claims of strict liability, negligence, failure to warn, and loss of consortium. She seeks compensatory damages for wrongful death, survival and medical costs and the costs of pursuing the complaint in court.
July 2023 Similac NEC Lawsuit Update
Clark’s case will be consolidated with other Similac NEC lawsuits and Enfamil NEC lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system, which are currently centralized as part of a baby formula MDL (multidistrict litigation) before U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois, since each of the claims brought against the makers of the cow’s milk formula products raise similar questions of fact and law.
As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, Judge Pallmeyer has established a “bellwether” program, where a group of 12 NEC lawsuits brought against the two infant formula manufacturers are going through case-specific discovery, and will be prepared for a series of early trial dates, which are designed to help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
Although the outcome of these early bellwether trials will not have any binding impact on other claims, they are expected to have a substantial impact on any baby formula NEC injury settlements the manufacturers may offer to avoid the need for each individual case to be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.
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