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Baby Formula Lawsuits filed against Similac, Enfamil Makers

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the makers of Similac, alleging that baby formula caused necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious intestinal disease that resulted in the death of a premature infant.

The lawsuit 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. The suit alleges that Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company, LLC are responsible for the death of their newborn child, Daniel Renteria-Hernandez.

The baby was born premature on April 29, 2019 at Dignity Hospital in Merced, California, according to the suit. After a 31-week pregnancy, his birth weight was two pounds and two ounces. He was immediately placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Valley Children’s Hospital. 

Daniel died at 16 days from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); and his parents allege that his death was caused by the Similac that was fed to him during his short life.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis is an intestinal disorder resulting in inflammation and necrosis of intestinal tissues. Often diagnosed in premature babies, it can be life-threatening. Symptoms can include a bloated abdominal area, green-tinged vomiting, and bloody stools.

The lawsuit alleges NEC has been linked, since at least 1990, to formula being fed to preterm infants. It claims a 30-year-old study indicated that exclusively feeding premies formula increased the risk of the ailment by a factor as high as 10, as compared with feeding breast milk alone. Several similar studies have also been published through the years. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that all premature infants should be fed only human breast milk.

The lawsuit also claims that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the link between Similac and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). The warnings indicate only that very low-birth-weight infants were susceptible to “gastrointestinal complications” when fed the formula.

Overly Broad and Vague Warnings alleged

The lawsuit reads: “Science and research have advanced in recent years confirming the dangers of the defendant’s cow’s milk-based product in causing NEC and death in premature infants, yet the Defendant did nothing to change its product, packaging, guidelines, instructions and warnings. The warnings and instructions are overly broad and vague, and do not ever mention that the product significantly increases the risk of NEC and death, nor provide any detailed instructions or evidence on when and how to feed the infants and how to avoid NEC and death when feeding its products.”

The lawsuit petition also states that as recently as 2016, Abbott advertised some Similac formulas as being specifically for premature and low birth-weight infants, the lawsuit notes, despite the known dangers.

The lawsuit presents claims of failure to warn, strict liability for defective product, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and breach of warranty. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages. 

Louisiana Lawsuit over Similac and Enfamil

In another lawsuit, a Louisiana woman and her mother filed a product liability lawsuit  in Illinois, alleging Similac and Enfamil caused necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).  The suit alleges that the severe intestinal disorder required emergency surgery shortly after birth, and resulted in life-long injuries.

Alicia Wyrick and her mother, Larhonda Turner, brought the suit in the Illinois Circuit Court for Madison County. They are pursuing damages from Mead Johnson and Abbott Laboratories for complications they allege were caused by use of the company’s popular cow’s milk-based formula among premature infants.

Ms. Wyrick was born premature in Seattle, Washington in August 2001. Her suit indicates she was fed Similac and Enfamil shortly after her birth. Soon after ingesting the cow’s milk formula, the suit alleges she developed NEC and required surgery that left her with long-lasting health effects.

The suit states: “Preterm and low-birth-weight infants are especially susceptible to NEC because of their underdeveloped digestive systems. Extensive scientific research, including numerous randomized controlled trials, has confirmed that cow’s milk-based feeding products cause NEC in preterm and low-birth-weight infants, which in turn may lead to other medical complications, surgeries, long-term health problems, and death.”

Failure to Warn

These lawsuits join a growing number of other families now pursuing a baby formula lawsuit against the makers of Similac and Enfamil. The suits all allege that Abbott and Mead Johnson knew or should have known that the formula and fortifiers were unreasonably dangerous for premature babies; nevertheless, the companies continued to sell and distribute the products without providing adequate warnings to parents, hospitals and medical providers.

This lawsuit and others also claim the use of these formulas has displaced breast milk that infants would have otherwise received, robbing them of a primary defense against NEC, since studies have shown breast milk can serve as a protective measure.

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