NEC Baby Formula Litigation
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) baby formula litigation continues to gain momentum in 2022. Claimants assert major manufacturing entities like Abbot Laboratories INC (makers of Similac) and Mead Johnson (maker of Enfamil) are responsible for personal injuries due to their negligence to inform parents and medical professionals about the dangers of their products.
Significant compensatory verdicts for claimants are possible. Savvy law firms are jumping on this opportunity to seek justice for parents and infants who were affected by this unnecessary, often deadly infection that causes perforations in the baby’s intestines.
What is NEC?
As the name suggests, necrotizing enterocolitis causes necrosis in gastrointestinal tissue, primarily in premature infants. Although some treatment protocols exist, this condition is often fatal. And when the neonate survives, the long-term prognosis is not encouraging in most cases.
NEC causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This swelling often causes cellular necrosis (tissue death) in the tissue that lines the inside of the intestines.
This tissue death, in turn, can cause perforations in the intestines, which can subsequently allow fluid leakage into the abdominal cavity, which can cause infection.
If the infection enters the blood and becomes systemic, it can cause deadly conditions like peritonitis and sepsis.
Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the membrane that protects the inner abdominal wall and holds the organs in place inside the abdominal cavity.
Sepsis is a blood infection that can cause rapid heart rate, fever, hypotension (low blood pressure), and eventually, death.
The most common symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis are gastrointestinal pain, abdominal swelling, bloody diarrhea, constipation, refusal to eat, and vomiting. In advanced cases, NEC may have systemic impacts, including changes in respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as general lethargy.
Who is most at risk from NEC?
Most NEC cases happen in premature infants, particularly those weighing less than 3.5 pounds. The smaller the infant is, the higher the risk for death from complications related to necrotizing enterocolitis. It’s estimated that NEC affects up to 10% of low birth weight babies.
Many scientists believe that premature babies are more susceptible to necrotizing enterocolitis because their digestive systems and immune systems are not equally developed relative to a full-term infant.
In most cases, NEC develops when the baby is between three and six weeks old, many times, before the infant leaves the hospital. This condition may occur at any time, even in a baby who seemed completely healthy just hours before.
What is the link between baby formula and NEC?
More than three decades ago, researchers began studying whether infants fed formula instead of breast milk were at higher risk for developing necrotizing enterocolitis than babies fed only breast milk.
Comparisons were made between premature babies fed a mixture of breast milk and formula and babies fed only breast milk. It was found that the babies who received the mixture of breast milk and formula were three times as likely to develop NEC as the breast milk-only babies. Further, the risk went up even higher for babies fed only formula and no breast milk at all.
Since then, scientists have continued to study the effects that baby formula that contains cow’s milk has on premature infants. 2022 research concluded, “Breastfeeding facilitates colonization of a balanced, non-pathogenic flora in the gut that helps prevent bacterial overgrowth, whereas formula feeding promotes abnormal, pathogenic bacterial growth.”
This bacterial overgrowth can cause infection, which can cause gut perforations, specifically in the small intestine. This often contributes to malnutrition because the infant is unable to absorb nutrients from the small intestine into the bloodstream. The systemic infection combined with a lack of nutrition are two of the primary complications associated with NEC.
Which baby formula companies are being sued?
NEC baby formula litigation does not assert that baby formulas are unhealthy for all babies. The assertion is that certain baby formula manufacturing companies failed to inform the public and health professionals that NEC risks were significantly increased in premature babies fed only formula.
If a baby suffered from necrotizing enterocolitis or died from complications due to NEC, the parents may be entitled to financial compensation for pain and suffering, lost income, medical bills, and other related expenses.
Most lawsuits related to baby formula manufacturers and NEC have targeted only two companies: Mead Johnson Nutrition Company, the maker of Enfamil, and Abbott Laboratories Inc, the maker of Similac.
These are both very large corporations with extensive resources and budgets to prolong and avoid litigation. Both companies produce multiple formula products that contain cow’s milk. There are also various other manufacturers that make similar baby formula products.
These formulas are still on the market today and will very likely continue to be. The litigation at hand is specifically concerned with the use of baby formulas that contain cow’s milk used in the diets of premature infants.
Some plaintiffs claim that the makers of Enfamil and Similac had previous knowledge that some of their products that contain cow’s milk could increase the risk of preterm infants developing necrotizing enterocolitis. The plaintiffs claim that the companies failed to put warning labels on their products that would have allowed them to make healthier decisions.
2022 NEC baby formula litigation status
NEC has been shown in scientific studies to be much more likely in premature infants who are fed only baby formula that is made from cow’s milk. When babies are fed human breast milk, they are far less likely to develop NEC. This has been shown previously in research.
The basis for litigation in baby formula cases is that the formula manufacturers were aware of the association between premature infant and NEC and failed to do anything about it. Lawsuits claim manufacturers didn’t adequately warn that these cow’s milk-based formulas could lead to serious gastrointestinal problems in premature infants and may lead to death.
Up to 50% of infants with NEC die. The makers of Similac and Enfamil are fighting hard not to be the first formula manufacturers to admit the necessity of a warning label. And so, they are fighting it out in the courts, and both have massive resources to continue these legal battles.
Despite that, NEC baby formula litigation is being initiated in all 50 states. More law firms are tackling these cases preemptively as the momentum grows rapidly. These lawsuits are being filed increasingly across the country.
How much is a baby formula claim worth?
NEC baby formula litigation is still in its earliest stages. It’s not possible to accurately speculate on the potential settlement values that could be at hand, or even if verdicts will be given.
If damages were to be awarded, their value would be based on the severity of injury to the baby, medical expenses for the treatment of the baby, financial losses associated with providing the medical care and loss of work, and the value of pain, suffering, and other intangible losses.
Is your law firm litigating NEC baby formula lawsuits?
Increasingly, parents across the United States are contacting attorneys who specialize in NEC cases. The average annual cost for taking care of an infant who lives with moderate NEC is $500,000.
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