Multiple lawsuits have been brought forward against the makers of Similac and Enfamil – the leading infant formula brands – by families whose premature babies developed necrotizing enterocolitis after taking the formulas and suffered harm or died. Both Similac and Enfamil are formulas based on cow milk; medical research has linked cow milk-based infant formulas to NEC, a very dangerous neonatal medical condition. The lawsuits filed against the makers of the infant formulas argue that the makers were aware of the risk of NEC but failed to warn families. In other words, the makers of the infant formulas allegedly were aware of the risk of NEC but continued to sell their products without any warning whatsoever.
Did your infant develop NEC after being fed Similac or Enfamil cow milk-based formula? If so, you might have grounds to file a lawsuit against the makes of the baby formula. If you are interested in learning more about your legal options and your right to sue for the harm that your infant suffered, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with the experts at our law firm as soon as possible. Our lawyers here at Downtown L.A. Law Group are ready to evaluate your claim and help you file your lawsuit.
NEC in Newborns – What It Is, Treatment, and Outlook
NEC is a bacterial infection that develops in the gastrointestinal system of newborn infants; as previously mentioned premature infants, have a higher risk of developing NEC. NEC causes inflammation of intestinal tissue and tissue decay. In some cases, a hole forms in the intestines, causing bacteria to leak out into the infant’s abdomen. This can cause peritonitis and, if not treated, sepsis.
To treat NEC, infants are put on aggressive antibiotics. All oral feedings are stopped, and nutrients are administered through an IV. If treatment is started quickly enough, then the infection can be stopped before any tissue in the infant’s intestines in affected. If there is dead intestinal tissue, surgery is necessary to both remove the dead tissue and address any holes in the intestines.
NEC is associated with a death rate of up to 40%. Unfortunately, survivors of NEC are likely to suffer long term complications. Approximately 1 in 3 infants who suffered NEC will go on to develop intestinal issues, specifically strictures. Intestinal strictures is a narrowing of the intestine, which can require additional surgical procedures to treat. Other complications are also likely.
Although infants affected cam definitely survive the dangerous medical condition and lead healthy lives, the risk of complications is real.
The Studies Link Baby Formulas to NEC in Premature Infants
Premature infants typically are not breastfed, so they are given baby formula to ensure that they are getting the proper nutrition needed for them to develop and grow. However, these baby formulas are made from cow milk. Scientific research (both recent research and research from about thirty years ago) has linked these cowmilk-based formulas to a greater risk of developing NEC.
In fact, although NEC only occurs in 0.05% full-term live birth in the U.S., NEC occurs in approximately 10% of all premature births (born at or before 37 weeks). Although the cause of NEC is not completely understood, there is significant proof that cowmilk-based baby formula increases the risk of premature infants developing NEC – so much that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk for premature infants because of the significant risk of NEC from formula.
Some important studies to consider include the following:
- A study from 1990 found that newborns fed with formula were 10 times more likely to develop NEC (The Lancet).
- A study from 2000 concluded that breastfed infants were 90% less likely to develop NEC when compared to formula-fed infants (Journal of Pediatrics).
- Another study, albeit more recent from 2013, found that feeding infants with their own mother’s breastmilk and avoiding bovine-origin products (like cowmilk-based formula) could reduce the risk of NEC (The Lancet).
- A recent study, from late 2021, concluded that infant formula trials are not reliable as the formula industry is closely involved in said trials, and reporting is biased and selective (The BMJ).
What does this mean? Everything points to the makers of baby formula purposefully ignoring and even hiding the risk of NEC associated with their formulas.
Who is Responsible?
Currently, the evidence points to the manufacturers of the baby formulas being aware of the dangers associated with cowmilk-based formula and NEC. However, they didn’t not take any action to address the risk or even warn parents of the risk to allow them to make an informed choice regarding using the formula.
Who are these manufacturers? Similac is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories Inc. (Abbott), and Enfamil is manufactured by Mead Johnson Nutrition Company (Mead). Based on the studies that have been available for 30 years and more recent studies, Abbott and Mead either knew or should have known of the dangers associated with cowmilk-based formulas and premature infants developing NEC. However, they failed to take any action and add a warning to the infant formula; therefore, directly contributing to the injuries and deaths associated with NEC in premature infants after being fed their cowmilk-based formulas.
What does this mean? Because the negligent actions of these infant formula manufacturers directly contributed to premature infants developing NEC, these manufacturers can be held accountable and sued under product liability law. Based on product liability law, product manufactures have a duty to ensure that their products are completely safe for their consumers to use – if there are any risks present, these manufactures have a duty to warn consumers.
The Motivation Behind Failing to Disclose the Risk of NEC
Although there has been no official investigation into the situation, it can be assumed that the failure to appropriately warn consumers about the risk of NEC associated with both the Similac and Enfamil baby formulas is associated with money. The infant formula industry is over $2 billion. No parent is going to willingly feed their infant – especially their premature infant – a formula that is known to cause a serious medical condition and even death.
Can You Sue?
Yes, you could be eligible to file a lawsuit against Abbott or Mead if your infant developed NEC associated with the consumption of their cow-milk based infant formulas, including Similac and Enfamil, respectively. More specifically, you could file a product liability lawsuit. In fact, you could also be eligible to participate in a class action lawsuit against these infant formula manufactures. This means that you and your family could be entitled to recovering significant compensation.
What Compensation is Available?
In product liability cases in general, some of the categories of compensation available include the following: medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, punitive damages, and legal fees. The specific type and amount of compensation that claimants recover will ultimately be based on the details surrounding the lawsuit. Although NEC infant formula lawsuits are new, NEC medical malpractice lawsuits have been around for many years – and they are typically high value cases (in the millions). Therefore, these NEC infant formula lawsuits are likely to also be high value and potentially result in settlements in the million-dollar range.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
Without a doubt, you could sue and recover compensation – however, it is essential that you file your lawsuit on time. All claims are subject to a statute of limitations, which varies from state to state. Product liability cases, for example, are subject to a two-year statute of limitations in California. Parents could sue on behalf of the infant under this deadline. If the affected infant survives, he or she will actually have two years after his or her 18th birthday to file a product liability lawsuit. For more information about the specific deadline that applies to your claim, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with the experts at our law firm as soon as possible.
What To Do
If you believe that your infant developed NEC because of the cowmilk-based formula that he or she was fed, then you might have grounds to sue. It is important that you gather all relevant medical records, purchase records of the formula, and seek legal assistance with a product liability lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers are ready to guide you every step of the way and help you reach a successful claim outcome.
Contact Downtown L.A. Law Group Today
Of course, finding out that the NEC that seriously harmed or even killed your infant can be devastating. We believe that the liable formula manufacturers should be held accountable. Our product liability lawyers and class action lawyers are ready to help you with your lawsuit. We offer free legal services which include free consultations and free second opinions. During these legal services, our NEC experts will answer all your questions and address all your concerns, providing you with the information that you need to begin or continue your lawsuit. We offer a Zero-Fee guarantee, meaning that you will not pay upfront legal costs. We also work on contingency; therefore, you will not pay anything unless you win.
If you’re ready to speak with the experts at our law firm, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with our lawyers today. Downtown L.A. Law Group is ready to help you.