NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit

Baby Formula Lawsuit

Each year in the United States, about 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely (prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy). According to the CDC, about 1 in 12 babies is born underweight (less than 5.5 pounds). Most babies born prematurely and/or underweight go on to live full, healthy lives, although they often need feeding support in their infant stages. Many of these babies refuse to eat by breastfeeding giving rise to the need for supplemental baby formula. 

Lawsuits are being filed all over the United States that claim two major baby formulas caused premature and/or underweight babies to develop a serious gastrointestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Families who bring successful baby formula NEC lawsuits may be entitled to significant financial compensation from two particular baby formula manufacturers: Enfamil and Similac.

The product liability lawyers at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt are helping parents understand their options and their legal rights when it comes to recovering financial compensation for babies suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after using these types of formulas. If you think your child was injured as a result of using cow’s milk-based baby formulas from either Enfamil and/or Similac, call us today. We are here to help.

What is NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis)?

NEC is a very serious illness that occurs in newborns. It arises as a result of large intestine (colon) inflammation. 

NEC is a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal system. NEC can cause rapid tissue decay and tissue death in a newborn’s intestines. NEC typically occurs in premature babies (37 weeks or earlier) in either the large and/or small intestines. Initially, the bacterial infection starts in the lining of the inner intestine and from there can spread outward through the full thickness of the intestine. 

Cases of NEC range from mild to extremely serious. A mild case of NEC may cause moderate pain from bowel inflammation. The most serious cases of NEC can involve a hole (perforation) forming in the intestine, and it can be fatal if not immediately treated. Deadly and aggressive bacteria can escape the digestive system (through the perforation) and lead to abdominal cavity infection. If the abdominal cavity becomes infected, it can very quickly lead to systemic and deadly infection of the bloodstream called sepsis


Who is at risk from NEC?

There are a few factors that can raise a baby’s risk for NEC.

  • Premature birth: premature babies are less developed than full-term babies. Their bodies aren’t always ready for digestion and for fighting infections. This increases the risk for NEC
  • Formula feeding

Any baby born prematurely is at risk for NEC. Babies that don’t get human milk (breastfeeding) are at higher risk for developing NEC.

What are the symptoms of NEC?

Each child may experience different symptoms, and they usually show up in the first few weeks of life. Some symptoms of NEC include:

  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Food not moving through the intestines
  • Belly swelling/bloating (abdominal distention)
  • Greenish-colored fluid in the stomach (bile)
What are NEC signs of infection?
  • A slow heart rate
  • Breathing that stops and starts (apnea)
  • Sluggish movements (lethargy)
How is NEC diagnosed?

It’s best to discuss this with your baby’s healthcare provider. Typically, NEC is diagnosed by an abdominal X-ray. Your child’s healthcare provider may put a needle into his or her abdominal cavity. This is to look for intestinal fluid in your child’s abdomen which is a sign of a hole in the intestines.

What are the possible complications of NEC?

In the most severe case of NEC, a hole (perforation) can form in your baby’s intestines. If this happens, bacteria in the intestinal tract can leak into the intestinal wall and even into the abdominal cavity causing further infection. If the abdominal cavity becomes infected, it can very quickly lead to systemic and deadly infection of the bloodstream called sepsis. 

  • Intestinal infections are very difficult for a baby to fight. Even with timely and appropriate treatment, serious complications can occur quickly
  • Intestinal scarring or narrow areas (strictures)
  • Inability to absorb food/nutrients
  • A hole in the intestine (perforation)
  • Severe infection affecting the entire body (sepsis)
  • Death
How is NEC treated?
  • Stop feedings
  • A nasogastric or NG tube: a tube running from your baby’s nose to his or her stomach; this keeps your baby’s stomach empty
  • With intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrition
  • With antibiotics
  • Taking chest X-rays
  • Providing extra oxygen to your baby (with a breathing machine)
  • Isolating your baby to prevent the infection from spreading
  • Surgery to remove the damaged intestine and/or bowel
  • Surgery to connect part of the intestine or bowel to an opening in the abdomen (ostomy)
  • Draining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneal cavity)

What Baby Formulas are in the NEC Lawsuit?

Formulas based on cow’s milk such as many by Enfamil and/or Similac increase the risk that premature babies (born before 37 weeks) will suffer from NEC. NEC typically occurs in premature babies being fed this formula at two (2) to six (6) weeks old. Additionally, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) often administer formulas based on cow’s milk.

Baby formula - NEC lawsuits

Enfamil lawsuit

Enfamil baby formulas that contain cow’s milk ingredients include:

  • Enfamil 24 and DHA & ARA Supplement
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein
  • Enfamil Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
  • Enfacare Powder
  • Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal/fl oz HP
  • Enfamil Premature 30 Cal

Similac lawsuit

Similac baby formulas that contain cow’s milk ingredients include:

  • Similac baby formulas that contain cow’s milk ingredients include:
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Alimentum Expert Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein- Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Special Care
  • Similac Special Care 20
  • Similac Special Care 24
  • Similac Special Care 24 High ProteinSimilac Special Care 30

NEC Baby Formula

In 2011, several hospitals concluded that the chances of getting NEC for premature babies were less for those fed human milk compared to cow’s milk.

The U.S. Surgeon General stated, “For vulnerable premature infants, formula feeding is associated with higher rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)”.

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that premature babies should only receive human milk due to NEC risks from cow’s milk-based formulas.

Does formula increase the risk of NEC?

The chances of developing NEC in premature babies are significantly higher when using cow's milk-based formulas such as Enfamil and Similac. Unfortunately, NEC may be fatal to premature babies in some cases.

Scientific studies as early as 1990 clearly show that cow’s milk-based formulas cause more incidents of NEC in premature babies than breast milk. One study that followed 926 premature babies showed that:

  • Formula-fed premature babies were six (6) to ten (10) times more likely to get NEC than premature babies who were fed breast milk.
  • Formula-fed premature babies were three (3) times more likely to get NEC than premature babies who received both breast milk and formula.

What is the Current State of the NEC Baby Formula Litigation?

Several parents have filed lawsuits against the makers of cow’s milk-based baby formulas including Abbott Laboratories (Similac manufacturer) and Mead Johnson & Company (Enfamil manufacturer). These lawsuits have been filed for causing premature babies to get sick or die from NEC. Common causes of action in these NEC formula lawsuits include:

  • Negligence and/or negligent representation
  • Product liability for a design defect (a defective product), because there was a reasonable, alternative design available
  • *Failure to warn
  • Intentional misrepresentation
  • Breach of warranty
  • Wrongful death (if the infant died)

The strongest product liability lawsuit claim is likely “failure to warn”. Cow’s milk-based NEC baby formulas involved in these lawsuits have no warnings or labels disclosing risks about NEC. Manufacturers of NEC baby formulas knew or should have known about the risks their products might cause for premature babies. 

With so much scientific evidence dating back decades about the risks of NEC in baby formulas, these companies have an obligation to warn consumers about these risks. The FDA considers baby formula to be a food and not a drug, so adding warning labels would not have been difficult. It is likely that they intentionally omitted adequate warning labels on their products in an effort to increase sales and/or prevent parents from being alarmed of possible risks. 

NEC baby formula lawsuits statute of limitations - when can a claim be filed?

The statute of limitations sets the time period in which a successful NEC formula lawsuit can be brought. Each state sets its own laws around this topic, and being that the NEC formula lawsuits involve parents across the United States, several factors need to be considered here:

  • the state in which the injury occurred in (the time limit is as low as one year in certain states)
  • who is bringing the lawsuit: the parents, an estate, or the child (sometimes minors have up to 21 years)
  • when the plaintiffs discovered the NEC (“discovery rule”) 
  • any other facts that may pause the statute of limitations from running

Given the unique situations of parents living in different states and the laws that dictate how and when a successful NEC formula lawsuit can be brought, it’s advisable to contact us as soon as possible. We’re here to answer your questions about your rights if your baby suffered from NEC as a result of cow’s milk-based baby formula. Call us today.

Free Consultation - NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit

Ratzan Weissman & Boldt has successfully handled many such complex cases and cannot be intimidated by the wealth or high profile of any manufacturer. Over the last seven (7) years, we have obtained over $200 million in trial verdicts for our clients.

Product liability law involves expertise far beyond the standards of law practice. Our reputation for providing exceptional legal representation to injured people in the most complex product liability cases reflects our deep understanding of industry standards, design, patents, labeling, and consumer rights.

The NEC Baby Formula attorneys at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt

You may have a claim or cause of action against anyone along a product’s supply chain, including:

  • the manufacturer of the product components
  • the manufacturer who assembled the defective product
  • the distributor of the product, or the wholesaler
  • all subsequent sellers of the defective product

These parties may be found to be legally responsible for your child’s injuries or death, and as a result, may be required to pay for your damages.

As defective product trial lawyers, we will hold the responsible parties accountable for the injuries their products have caused. These cases often involve class action lawsuits, because one defective product may have injured thousands of consumers.

We are proud of the changes that our efforts have brought to consumers. We have not only recovered significant verdicts and settlements for our clients, we have also helped to ensure that these defective products were stopped from causing any further pain, suffering, and damage.

Ratzan Weissman & Boldt is a contingency-fee based practice. What this means is that there are no fees or costs to you unless we prevail through a favorable settlement or jury verdict and judgment. Because we don’t bill by the hour and only get paid when you do, our priority is maximizing the results in your case.

If you have questions regarding NEC baby formula lawsuits, contact us today. Initial consultations are always free; call us at (305) 374-6366 or use our online contact form.

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