Discovery Protocols Established in NEC Baby Formula Multidistrict Litigation

Discovery Protocols Established in NEC Baby Formula Multidistrict Litigation

Multiple infants have developed a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed baby formula manufactured by Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson. Families of infants with NEC caused by cowmilk-based baby formula have been unfairly burdened with hefty medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages such as pain and suffering. Parents of ill and deceased infants have filed NEC baby formula lawsuits in an effort to hold negligent manufacturers accountable and recover compensation for their damages. 

These product liability claims have been condensed into a multidistrict litigation. Currently, the court is proceeding with the bellwether trials, which involve establishing the parameters for the discovery process. If your child developed necrotizing enterocolitis after consuming Similac or Enfamil baby formula as an infant, a product liability attorney can provide critical legal insight to establish liability and maximize your compensation. 

NEC Baby Formula Multidistrict Litigation Prepares for Bellwether Trials

District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois presides over the NEC baby formula multidistrict litigation. Condensing these claims into a multidistrict litigation allows plaintiffs to pursue compensation for their specific damages while expediting the claims process and ensuring more consistent settlement outcomes. In the NEC baby formula multidistrict litigation, plaintiffs are accusing baby formula manufacturers Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson of failing to provide adequate warning labels on their products.

The next step in the MDL is to prepare a series of bellwether claims which will act as test cases for the whole group. Bellwether trials allow the court, as well as the plaintffs and defendants, to observe how juries react to the facts of the case, expert testimonies, and other factors. Based on the outcome of the 12 NEC baby formula bellwether cases, the defendants may be more willing to settle or may choose to proceed with the remaining claims.

The MDL is currently in the process of outlining how the discovery process for the bellwether trials will be conducted. Both sides created a list of stipulated discovery protocols for the court. These guidelines will direct how fact discovery will proceed and set parameters for the extent of the depositions collected. The full discovery process will not be conducted right now in the interest of continuing the claims process.

Baby Formulas Cause NEC in Premature Infants

Hospitals often rely on these cow milk-based formulas to supplement the nutrient supply for premature and underweight infants. Unfortunately, this population is at the highest risk of developing NEC. Necrotizing enterocolitis is a potentially deadly condition where the intestinal tissue deteriorates, leaving holes that bacteria can travel through, leading to serious infections. 

Current research suggests that the intestinal lining of premature infants may be unable to handle the cowmilk-based formulas, leaving them more prone to intestinal tears and NEC. Parents should be aware of the signs of NEC and take their children to a medical provider as soon as they notice the following:

  • Fluctuating body temperature
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen stomach
  • Refusing food
  • Bloody stool
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Green vomit
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever 

Delaying medical treatment can limit your child’s treatment options and reduce the chance of a full recovery. Additionally, it puts any potential claim you may file at risk of being discredited. Defendants may use postponing medical treatment against you by saying that you contributed to your child’s condition by allowing it to worsen before seeking medical care, which could mean a reduced settlement.

Recovering Damages in an NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit

Long-term health consequences of necrotizing enterocolitis can include gastrointestinal issues, developmental delays, stunted growth, and liver issues. These kinds of injuries often have significant impacts on a family’s finances, as well as the child’s physical and mental health as they grow older and mature.

For example, a parent may need to take time off from work to take their child to doctor appointments and care for them at home, resulting in lost wages and missed opportunities to advance their career. They may struggle to pay for medical treatment for their children, cover their rent, and maintain a respectable standard of living. Meanwhile, the child may struggle in school and be socially excluded due to their smaller size and developmental delays. 

Plaintiffs in the NEC baby formula lawsuits are currently seeking compensation for these losses, and the future losses they will sustain as a result of their child’s injuries. Parents may recover compensation for both economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages provide financial relief for monetary losses, and non-economic damages offer financial compensation for emotional or intangible losses.

Examples of Damages in an NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Lab tests
    • Imaging
    • Surgery
    • Medication
    • Hospital stays
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Reduced earning capacity
    • Missed promotions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Wrongful death
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Loss of companionship

Previous Negligence by Baby Formula Manufacturers May Help Plaintiffs’ Case

For many families, a safe and reliable source of baby formula is critical. Unfortunately, a recent string of controversies in the baby formula industry, such as shortages and recalls, has further damaged the credibility of baby formula manufacturers. The links between cow-based formulas and NEC are just the start. For example, a new study has revealed that the health benefits advertised on many baby formulas lack a scientific basis

Additionally, there have been multiple recalls pertaining to bacterial infections in the manufacturing plants that produce baby formula. This context is relevant to the NEC baby formula multidistrict litigation because it provides plaintiffs with evidence that baby formula manufacturers have a pattern of negligent behavior that has actively harmed consumers.

If your child has developed NEC after consuming Enfamil or Similac, your family may be entitled to compensation for the physical, financial, and emotional damages related to this injury. You should seek out the counsel of a reputable product liability lawyer who can offer you help in collecting evidence of negligence, managing administrative duties, documenting your damages, and negotiating a fair settlement.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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