Similac Lawsuits for Causing NEC in Premature Infants

Similac product liability lawsuits have been filed recently alleging that the popular baby formula has caused many premature infants to develop a serious gastrointestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Our firm is currently looking into potential Similac lawsuits against the formula manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories Inc., for failure to warn about the risks of NEC associated with Similac. A successful baby formula NEC lawsuit could result in significant financial compensation.

Similac Causes NEC in Premature Infants

Similac is a leading brand of baby formula that is made from cow milk and given to infants as a substitute for their mother’s breast milk.  Recent scientific research and medical studies have confirmed that giving bovine formulas such as Similac to premature infants greatly increases their risk of a dangerous bowel infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

NEC is an aggressive bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal system of newborn babies that can result in rapid decay of tissue in the baby’s intestinal walls. NEC can develop in the small or large intestine and the necrotizing infection originates in the inner lining of the intestinal walls and eventually impacts the entire thickness of the intestine.

NEC cases range in severity from very mild NEC which causes only small discomfort, to very severe NEC which can be potentially life-threatening for the infant.  NEC triggers severe inflammation of the bowels and acute pain. THe most serious cases of NEC require immediate emergency medical intervention or treatment or the tissue decay can cause a perforation or hole to form in the intestinal wall as the tissue dies.

If perforation in the intestine wall is caused by NEC it can be very dangerous and very often fatal for the baby. The hole in the intestine allows harmful bacteria from inside the GI system to leak out into the abdominal cavity. This can rapidly progress into a systemic internal infection and eventually cause sepsis, a deadly bloodstream infection.

There scientific evidence linking NEC in preemies to bovine formulas like Similac dates back over 30 years, but recent medical research has conclusively established that premature babies who are given Similac have a much higher risk of NEC compared to those who are fed with breast milk or non-bovine formulas. Premature infants who are fed with a cow-milk formula such as Similac, are ten times more at risk for developing NEC than those fed with breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other notable public health organizations have strongly cautioned against feeding Similac or other cow-milk formulas to premature infants.

Similac Manufacturer Ignored the Risk of NEC

The Similac product line of infant formulas is manufactured and sold by Abbott Laboratories Inc. (“Abbott”), which is based outside Chicago.  For years, Abbott has been fully aware of the medical evidence linking its formula to higher rates of NEC in premature infants. Despite being aware of this research, Abbott has deliberately chosen not to include any type of warning label on their Similac products cautioning doctors and parents about the increased risk of NEC associated with Similac and premature infants.

Like all product manufacturers, Abbott has a legal duty to warn consumers about known risks and dangers associated with its product. It appears that Abbott has made a business decision not to include any warnings about NEC on its product labeling for Similac, presumably to avoid any negative impact on the marketability of Similac. Abbott’s failure to warn about NEC is the basis of the legal claims in the Similac NEC lawsuits being filed against the company.

Similac NEC Litigation Status

The Similac NEC litigation against Abbott is in its very earliest stages right now. New Similac NEC lawsuits are being filed against Abbott on a regular basis in courts around the country. These Similac lawsuits are primarily asserting product liability claims against Abbott based on negligent failure to warn and strict product liability.

As the number of NEC baby formula lawsuits continues to grow, it is very likely that all pending Similac lawsuits in the federal courts will be consolidated into a new “class-action” MDL (multi-district litigation). MDLs in mass tort product liability litigation are similar to traditional class actions, except that the cases remain separate and are only consolidated for pretrial discovery.

How Much are Similac Lawsuits Worth?

We are still in the very earliest stages of the Similac NEC litigation. None of the baby formula NEC lawsuits have been settled or gone to trial yet. This makes it very difficult to speculate on the potential settlement value of these cases. We can, however, look at settlements and verdicts in recent medical malpractice lawsuits in which the primary injury was NEC in a premature infant.

The average verdict or settlement amount in the 7 most recent malpractice lawsuits for NEC in premature infants was around $3.5 million. The median amount of money awarded in these 7 NEC cases was $1.3 million. These values in malpractice cases involving NEC are probably lower than the potential settlement or verdict amounts we could see in Similac NEC lawsuits. The defendants in the NEC malpractice cases were doctors or nurses who probably made honest mistakes. These types of defendants get much more sympathy from juries than big companies (like Abbott).

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