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Similac NEC Lawsuit 2024 Update: Link to Premature Birth?

Studies have found that premature infants who are fed cow’s milk–based formulas like Similac face an increased risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a severe, potentially fatal gastrointestinal disease that inflames intestinal tissue, causing it to die.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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If your baby or other loved one was fed recalled Similac formula in a hospital / NICU, or if your premature baby developed necrotizing enterocolitis NEC, you should contact our baby formula lawyers immediately.

You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Similac baby formula lawsuit and a baby formula lawyer can help. Please click the button below for a Free Similac Baby Formula Lawsuit Evaluation or call us toll-free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

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Update: Mead Johnson Ordered to Pay $60 Million Over Enfamil NEC Lawsuit

According to Reuters, an Illinois jury has ordered Mead Johnson, a unit of Reckitt Benckiser, to pay $60 million to the mother of a premature baby who died of an intestinal disease after being fed the company’s Enfamil baby formula [1]. The jury in an Illinois state court in St. Clair County found Mead Johnson negligent for failing to warn of the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

The $60 million verdict includes compensation for plaintiff Jasmine Watson’s loss and grief, and for the pain and suffering of her baby, Chance Dean.

This verdict marks the first trial out of hundreds of lawsuits claiming that various Enfamil and Abbott Laboratories’ Similac formulas caused NEC.

More than 400 NEC lawsuits against Mead Johnson and Abbott are pending in federal court in Chicago, with others, like Watson’s, in state courts. Plaintiffs in these cases allege that the companies concealed the fact that their formula, including products made for premature infants, posed a higher risk than alternatives like donor milk.

Similac Recall Update – August 2022

Just as the baby formula plant in Michigan is finally resuming operations, it is now being reported that a former Abbott employee filed a whistleblower complaint about the facility with OSHA back in February 2021. The complaint reported various concerns about the plant and claimed that records about the Similac Recall were being falsified.

More significantly, it shows that federal authorities were on notice of the problems at the Sturgis, MI facility over a year before those conditions eventually led to a Similac recall and an acute shortage of baby formula.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, in early June 2022, the agency finally allowed production operations to restart at Abbott’s formula manufacturing plant in Sturgis, MI, following the previous Similac recall [2].

A dangerous bacteria outbreak was linked to the facility and a subsequent investigation by the FDA identified numerous violations and unsanitary conditions. This prompted an emergency shutdown of the entire plant and a Similac recall which lasted several months before operations finally resumed last week.

The Similac recall and other powdered infant formula shortages were starting across the U.S. even before the issues at the Michigan facility arose, but the shutdown made things worse and became the focal point of public outrage. The Sturgis facility is being allowed to reopen under the terms of a strict consent decree between Abbott and the FDA.

What’s the Problem?

Premature babies do best on breast milk or human donor milk for a balanced diet. However, breastfeeding is not always possible in NICUs. Many low-birth-weight infants also need additional calories, so many NICU medical professionals use natural milk with a baby formula from Similac.

Unfortunately, most baby formula products are cow’s milk-based, which is difficult for premature babies to digest properly, leading to a severe and often deadly gastrointestinal disease known as necrotizing enterocolitis NEC.

Numerous studies have found that cow milk formula can increase the risk of premature babies developing NEC. The risk of sepsis increased in preemies by nearly 18% for every 10% increase in the formula.

Unfortunately, Similac Baby Formula is used in NICUs across the U.S. Similac Human Milk Fortifier Special Care is specially designed for newborn preemies. When preterm babies feed on them, these baby formula products may increase the risk of NEC.

FDA Warns Against Abbott Baby Formulas After Infant Dies

US health officials are warning parents not to use 3 popular powdered baby formula products manufactured at an Abbott plant in Michigan that investigators recently linked to bacterial contamination.

The FDA is investigating 4 reports of premature infants who were hospitalized after consuming the baby formula, including 1 who died. The agency said 1 of the cases involved salmonella and 3 involved Cronobacter sakazakiim, a rare but dangerous germ that can cause blood infections and other serious complications.

As this is a product used as the sole source of nutrition for many of our nation’s newborns and premature infants, the FDA is deeply concerned about these reports of bacterial infections, said Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response

Similac Lawsuit Filed Over Infant’s NEC Death

The recent lawsuit filed against Abbott Laboratories alleges that Similac caused a premature infant to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) while still in the hospital, resulting in the newborn’s death [3].

The complaint was filed by Shelbi Singh on behalf of herself and her deceased child, Granville Singh, in the Southern District of Indiana, on January 9, 2023, alleging that Similac formula caused the “catastrophic and preventable death of a newborn baby who died due to a horrific and deadly disease.”

Shelbi claims Granville was born prematurely on June 13, 2017, and that less than 6 weeks later the baby died of NEC complications, which the lawsuit alleges were a direct result of the use of contaminated Similac formula given to the baby at the hospital.

The companies who manufacture these products often intentionally mislabel and misrepresent the contents of the products both to the public at-large and to the health care community, passing off these deadly products as something similar to or even superior to human breast milk, the complaint states

Singh’s lawsuit brings claims of strict liability, negligence, and failure to warn, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

What is Similac Baby Formula?

Similac (for “similar to lactation”) is a brand of infant formula products that was developed by Alfred Bosworth of Tufts University and marketed by Abbott Labs. The product is a manufactured food designed and marketed for feeding to preterm babies and premature infants under 12 months of age, usually prepared for bottle-feeding or cup-feeding from powder (mixed with water) or liquid (with or without additional water).

Is Similac Baby Formula FDA Approved?

As stated by the USA Food And Drink Administration, the agency does not approve premature infant formulas before they can be marketed. However, all formulas marketed in the United States must meet federal nutrient requirements and infant formula manufacturers must notify the FDA before marketing a new formula [4].

Which Products Use Other Cow Milk Formulas?

About 80% of baby formulas are cow’s milk-based formula, and almost every major brand (and store brand equivalent) offers a bovine-based formula, including:

  • Similac Baby Formula
  • Similac Special Care
  • NeoSure
  • Human Milk Fortifier
  • Enfamil
  • Earth’s Best
  • Happy Baby
  • Go & Grow
  • Gerber
  • Parent’s Choice
  • Baby’s Only
  • Loulouka
  • Holle
  • Kendamil
  • Bobbie
  • Lebenswert

What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis NEC?

NEC is a serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature babies. The condition inflames intestinal tissue, causing it to die.

A hole (perforation) may form in the intestines of babies with NEC. Bacteria can leak into the abdomen or bloodstream through the hole. NEC usually develops within 2 to 6 weeks after birth.

In some premature infants, NEC is mild. Others experience severe, life-threatening symptoms.

NEC Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • A swollen, red, or tender belly
  • Abdominal Distension
  • Feeding Intolerance
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Temperature Instability
  • Apnea
  • Lethargy

Treatment

Necrotizing enterocolitis may require medication, but severe cases will require surgery – and even the surgery may pose serious risks of permanent injury to premature babies.

In some cases, scarring and narrowing of the bowel may develop and can lead to future intestinal obstruction or blockage.

Another residual problem may be malabsorption (the inability of the bowel to absorb nutrients normally). This is more common in young children who require multiple surgeries for NEC and lose a large segment of the intestine.

Still, some premature infants lose so much intestine from the infection that they do not have enough intestine left to survive. These infants may end up requiring a bowel transplant to survive.

Similac Infant Formula Side Effects

In addition to an increased risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), cow’s milk-based formula products have been linked to more moderate side effects including constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. These effects are usually temporary and may disappear as the baby’s body adjusts to the medication.

Breast Milk vs. Formula: How Similar Are They?

There are ways in which formula is similar to breast milk: they both provide energy, healthy foods, hydration, and nutrients, so your baby will grow whichever milk he is given.

However, despite advances in how cow’s milk-based formula is formulated and manufactured, it doesn’t come close to matching the health benefits of human breast milk.

Human milk fortifier has evolved over millions of years to be the perfect health food for human babies. It’s much more complex than other mammals’ milk, as it builds our more complex brains and unique digestive and immune systems.

In contrast, cow’s milk, from which most formula is made, meets the specific needs to be fed to calves. It’s not safe for human babies to drink, so has to be processed intensively when made into a formula to be fed to infants.

Abbott Baby Formula Linked to 2nd Infant Death

The CDC announced on Feb. 28, 2022, that Abbott Laboratories Similac Human Milk Fortifier PM 60/40 baby formula product has been linked to a second infant death.

The baby formula was produced at Abbott Laboratories Sturgis, Michigan facility, where four cases of Cronobacter sakazakii and one case of Salmonella are linked to as of the announcement. The CDC said the Cronobacter infections may have contributed to the two infant deaths.

The particular lot of baby formula named in the expanded Similac recall was distributed nationwide and to Israel, with those aforementioned cases coming from Minnesota, Texas, and Ohio. These and more result in various baby formula NEC lawsuits.

Lawsuit Filed After Newborn Died From NEC

The parents of a child who died of NEC have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the makers of Similac, alleging the infant formula caused the serious intestinal disease.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on May 14, 2021, by Alicia Restad and Daniel Renteria-Hernandez, alleging Abbott Labs and Mead Johnson & Company, LLC are responsible for the death of their child, Daniel Renteria-Hernandez.

According to the Similac lawsuit, baby Daniel was born on April 29, 2019, at Dignity Hospital in Merced, California. He’s one of the low birth weight infants that only weigh two pounds and two ounces after only 31 weeks of pregnancy and was put in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Valley Children’s Hospital.

At only 16 days, Daniel died from NEC, which the parents blame Similac fed to him during his short life, according to the Similac lawsuit against Mead Johnson.

Lawsuit Claims Abbott Laboratories Deceptively Marketed Similac

Abbott Inc. is facing a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that Similac Go & Grow toddler drinks are defectively manufactured in a way that offers minimal nutritional needs to children while maximizing sales for the company.

New York caretaker Giovanna Smith claims Abbott fraudulently advertises its so-called “transition Similac formulas” by claiming they’re suitable for toddlers and an appropriate next step in their development. However, Smith says Similac Go & Grow toddler drinks are essentially identical to the cow’s milk formula.

The Similac baby formula lawsuits state that Abbott Laboratories is adapting to a shift in how mothers are feeding their babies, citing findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics showing an increase in breastfeeding since 2003.

The resulting drop in infant Similac formula sales led Abbott to re-brand their products, creating a “transition Similac formula” category, including the Similac Go & Grow toddler drink, according to the class action. Other products in this category are labeled as “follow-on formulas,” “weaning formulas,” “toddler milk” and “growing-up milk.”

As evidence of the branding effort, Smith points to U.S. Nielsen data between 2003 and 2015 that shows advertising on these transition formulas quadrupled. The complaint further elaborates on Smith’s claims of how the Similac formula and the Similac Go & Grow toddler drink are the same by comparing the labels.

The label on the toddler drink doesn’t indicate how it’s different, according to Smith. Similac Go & Grow and the infant formulas are labeled similarly, with parallel design choices.

Additionally, Smith claims advertising on these products has created a false impression that Similac Go & Grow is needed by growing children. Smith cited research conducted by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that looked at public opinion on toddler formula products.

What are Baby Formula NEC Lawsuits Alleging?

If your baby received Similac in a hospital or NICU, or if your child developed NEC after taking Similac, you can file Similac baby formula lawsuits against the manufacturers of Similac with the help of our attorney.

These Similac Recall Lawsuits allege that Abbott knew about the risk of developing NEC, but failed to warn of this risk.

If your child suffered harm from NEC after being fed Similac, he or she may require a lifetime of care and professional medical advice to deal with complications of the disease. Tragically, you may even have experienced death from this condition. When this occurs, you need someone on your side who can fight for justice and help file baby formula lawsuits.

Similac Lawsuit Settlement Information

The Similac litigation is still in its early stages and none of the baby formula lawsuits has yet been settled or gone to trial. This makes it difficult to speculate about the potential settlement value of these cases.

However, our lawyers can predict settlement amounts by looking at verdicts in recent medical malpractice lawsuits in which the primary injury was NEC in a premature baby. The average settlement in the 7 most recent malpractice lawsuits for NEC in infants was approximately $3.5 million. The median amount of compensation awarded in these cases was about $1.3 million.

Taking this information into consideration, our lawyers believe the trial value is potentially much higher in the case of Similac because Abbott – a huge company making a fortune from this baby formula – is less sympathetic than doctors and nurses.

Settlement awards in what will likely become a class action lawsuit are likely significantly lower than the trial value. So, with the understanding that it is still early in these Similac lawsuits and there is still a great deal of litigation to play out, our attorneys predict an average settlement value to be in the $300,000 to $800,000 range. Where a settlement would fall in that range will depend upon how badly the baby was injured.

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Get a Free Similac NEC Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers

The Pharmaceutical Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in baby formula lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently handling Similac Recall Lawsuits in all 50 states.

If your baby or other loved one received Similac in a hospital / NICU, or if your premature baby was diagnosed with NEC after he or she was fed Similac, you should contact our Similac Recall Attorneys immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a Similac Recall Lawsuit and we can help.

References:

  1. https://www.schmidtandclark.com/wp-content/uploads/Similac-NEC-Lawsuit.pdf
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/fda-investigation-cronobacter-infections-powdered-infant-formula-february-2022
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/infant-formula-guidance-documents-regulatory-information/regulations-and-information-manufacture-and-distribution-infant-formula
  4. https://www.reuters.com/legal/reckitt-unit-hit-with-60-million-verdict-enfamil-baby-formula-case-illinois-2024-03-14/

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