Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Enfamil Formula for Fatal Case of NEC in Preterm Infant

Newborn died of "catastrophic injuries" because Mead Johnson failed to warn about the cow's milk-based Enfamil formula risks, the lawsuit claims.

A Kentucky couple has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mead Johnson & Company, LLC, after their preterm infant developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) following use of Enfamil formula while still in the NICU after birth.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Samantha and Blake Parker in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on March 29, seeking damages for the loss of their son, who is identified by the initials C.P.

NEC is a condition that often results in the need for emergency surgery while a newborn is still in the hospital, and a growing body of research has found that cow’s milk-based infant formula like Enfamil and Similac greatly increases the risk among premature infants.

The Parkers now join a number of other families of preterm infants nationwide who are pursuing NEC infant formula lawsuits against Mead Johnson and Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures competing Similac products, alleging that the companies withheld known information about the NEC risks from parents and the medical community for years, and even promoted certain versions of their products for use among preterm infants.

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

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According to the wrongful death lawsuit, C.P. was born a year ago, in April 2023, and was fed Enfamil while in the NICU, which subsequently led to the development of NEC and other “catastrophic injuries,” which tragically resulted in the child’s death on May 1, 2023.

According to the Parkers, not only did Mead Johnson know this was a risk associated with use of Enfamily, but the company intentionally withheld that information from parents and the medical community, in order to continue to make high profits.

“Although Defendants knew, or should have known, about the unreasonable and substantial adverse risks their cow’s milk-based products posed to preterm infants, they negligently, recklessly, or intentionally failed to make these products safer or adequately warn consumers or the health care community of their products’ true risks,” their lawsuit states. “Instead, Defendants undermined the science connecting cow’s milk-based nutrition products to NEC and unduly influenced the perception of the public and medical community through aggressive and misleading marketing campaigns promoting their cow’s milk-based infant nutrition products as safe and equivalent or superior alternatives to human milk for all infants, which they knew was false.”

The lawsuit presents claims for failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, strict liability, violation of the Kentucky Consumer Fraud Protection Act, loss of consortium, survival action, and wrongful death, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

April 2024 Infant Formula NEC Lawsuits Update

The Parker’s lawsuit was filed just weeks after a state court in Illinois awarded $60 million in another Enfamil wrongful death lawsuit brought by Jasmine Watson, whose child also died of NEC after being fed the cow’s milk-based formula. Following a two-week trial, it took the jury only two hours to find Mead Johnson liable, awarding $25 million more than Watson’s attorneys had asked for during closing arguments.

While the Watson trial was held at the state level, 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.

To help parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout hundreds of similar claims, Judge Pallmeyer had the parties select four infant formula NEC lawsuits for an initial bellwether trial pool last year. While the date the first federal trial date has not yet been scheduled, prior orders suggested the claims will be ready to go before juries by the end of 2024.

As the litigation continues to move forward, baby formula lawyers are still reviewing and filing 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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