JPML Consolidates Toxic Heavy Metals Baby Food Lawsuits into MDL

JPML Consolidates Toxic Heavy Metals Baby Food Lawsuits into MDL
Mom feeds her baby

In the last few years, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed across the country against major baby food manufacturers due to extremely high levels of toxic heavy metals—such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury—found in their products. 

These heavy metals have been associated with causing severe developmental issues in children, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

As hundreds of similar toxic baby food lawsuits have been filed in states all over America, it triggered the next step in major lawsuits like this: considering an MDL. An MDL (multi-district litigation) is a legal procedure that is meant to save Courts both time and money when handling complex litigation that involves multiple plaintiffs who all have similar complaints. 

MDLs conserve judicial resources and usually result in more timely settlements for the defendants. It is not uncommon for both the defendants and the plaintiffs to want an MDL because of the amount of money and time it saves everyone.

This week, it was announced that the toxic baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits will, in fact, be consolidated into an MDL. 

Toxic Baby Food MDL Announcement

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided this week to consolidate all of the pending heavy metal baby food lawsuits into a Multidistrict Litigation. Baby food autism plaintiffs sought an MDL, and now they have it.

The toxic baby food MDL proceedings will take place in the Northern District of California and be overseen by the Honorable Jacqueline Scott Corley. This MDL will be beneficial for all the autism toxic baby food parties for multiple reasons.

First, the MDL will help to streamline the pretrial proceedings, such as discovery and pretrial motions. This prevents Courts all over the country from having to hear the same evidence motions, scheduling motions, and other similar issues over and over again. 

It will also ensure that there are consistent rulings across all the cases; more or less, it will prevent one court from admitting certain evidence while other courts deny the same evidence. 

Finally, MDLs usually expedite the legal process overall. Since all of the plaintiffs and defendants come together into what is essentially a single trial, later, the cases will be heard separately based on their own merits and losses.

The MDL process benefits all of the parties, saving everyone time, money, and stress. Recently, we have seen other cases involving contaminated products for infants, such as the NEC baby formula lawsuits, get consolidated into MDLs for these reasons.

Overall, the JPML made this decision because all of the factual questions involved in these lawsuits were similar enough that an MDL would be beneficial. 

What Exactly Is The Toxic Heavy Metals Baby Food Lawsuit?

The toxic heavy metals baby food litigation is a series of lawsuits filed against some of the biggest baby food manufacturers in the United States.

These lawsuits were started in 2021 due to a report from the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which found hazardous levels of toxic heavy metals—such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury—in certain baby foods. These toxic metals pose serious health risks to infants and children, including developmental impairments, decreased IQ, autism, and ADHD.

The lawsuits allege that baby food companies knowingly sold baby food that contained these heavy metals at harmful levels without properly warning parents about the potential health risks to their infants, babies, and children.

The plaintiffs in these cases are parents and guardians who purchased these products for their children. These regular, everyday moms, dads, and caretakers bought these food products without knowing that they were harmful and are now dealing with the mental, emotional, and physical hardships of raising a child with a range of neurological problems, not to mention that these children will eventually grow up and have to deal with these issues for the rest of their lives.

Baby interacting with jar of Gerber baby food who is a defendant in the toxic metals baby food lawsuit - LLN

The companies being accused in these lawsuits include well-known brands such as

  • Gerber
  • Beech-Nut
  • Hain Celestial (Earth's Best Organic)
  • Nurture Inc. (Happy Family Organics and HappyBABY)
  • Nestle
  • Danone
  • Plum Organics
  • Campbell
  • Walmart Inc
  • Sprout

The main argument in the lawsuits is that these baby food manufacturers have a responsibility, a duty, to make safe, uncontaminated products. And when a single person or a mega-corporation breaches their duty, they should be held responsible—never more so than in a situation where the population being affected is vulnerable, and the defendants have all the resources in the world to make sure their products are safe. Because these companies produced dangerous foods, knew or should have known that they contained dangerous levels of heavy metals, and sold them anyway, the plaintiffs and their lawyers are seeking justice and compensation.

Of course, the defendants have contested the findings, citing their compliance with current federal guidelines that reference safe levels of heavy metals in baby food.

On a broader scale, these cases may lead to stricter regulations and standards in the baby food industry to prevent issues like this from happening in the future.

What Happens Next in the Toxic Baby Food Autism MDL?

Now that the JPML has decided to consolidate all of the Toxic Baby Food Autism cases into an MDL, all of the individual cases will be transferred to a single federal district court in the Northern District of California.

As more cases are filed after the formation of the MDL, they will be transferred into the MDL. Therefore, existing cases and future cases can be included. 

Steering Committees Are Selected

Next, the Court will appoint a Plaintiff’s Steering Committee. Depending on the size of the MDL, there can be hundreds of different lawyers and law firms involved. The Plaintiff’s Steering Committee (PSC) is formed so that all the plaintiffs can make a single decision and then use the PSC to speak to the court on behalf of all the plaintiffs.

The Plaintiff’s Steering Committee is headed by a Lead Counsel and the group will meet regularly to prepare the plaintiffs’ strategy throughout the entire legal process.

The defendants—in this case, all the baby food manufacturers being sued for allegedly allowing harmful levels of heavy metals in their baby food products—will form their own steering committee. The Defendant Steering Committee (DSC) will gather all the relevant information and evidence and prepare pretrial motions to bring in front of the MDL judge.

MDL Will Hold a Daubert Hearing

As the cases come together into an MDL and everything is organized, complex litigation like the toxic baby food allegations may require what is called a Daubert hearing. 

A Daubert hearing is a special court proceeding where the judge hears the evidence against the defendants to make sure that the expert testimony is rooted in “scientific knowledge” and is reliable. Basically, it is meant to not waste the Court's time by making the Judge and/or jury find out that there is no real evidence later. 

At this hearing, both parties must show that their experts are qualified, and reliable, and will be helpful in substantiating important medical or scientific information regarding the connection between toxic baby food and autism. Their testimony should be valuable in helping either back up the claims against the baby food manufacturers or rebut the plaintiffs with sound science. 

Daubert hearings are strict and require all the parties, including the experts, to abide by the standards of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, who is overseeing the MDL, will have final authority on the admissibility of any evidence. 

Judge Corley will have to determine the following:

  • Has the plaintiffs' theory or science been properly tested? 
  • Has the theory or science been subjected to peer review? 
  • What is the actual or possible rate of error? 
  • Does the relevant scientific community accept the theory or science being presented and the methodology by which it was collected? 

Bellwether Trials in the Toxic Baby Food MDL

The next step in the MDL process is something called bellwether trials. Bellwether trials are basically a sample group of cases chosen from all the different lawsuits that were filed. These trials serve as test cases for the overall MDL.

And, just like in a regular lawsuit, these cases go through all the same processes, like discovery and presenting the case before a judge or jury. The outcome of the bellwether trials provides valuable information about whether the cases should continue at all and, if so, for what amounts the remaining cases in the MDL should be settled.

If the case against the baby food manufacturers is solid, we could see many individual cases settled along the way. In fact, if enough cases reach a settlement before the trial, the MDL is usually dissolved, and the remaining cases return to their original courts to be finished.

What If I Believe That My Child Was Harmed by Toxic Baby Food?

For parents and guardians who have already filed a lawsuit or who suspect their child might have been harmed by the dangerous baby food products, this consolidation into an MDL could have significant implications. 

MDL lawsuits can lead to more organized proceedings, which can potentially lead to quicker settlements. For now, we will have to wait and see how things go as everyone adjusts to the new decision and all the preliminary decisions are made.

At Lawsuit Legal News, we are dedicated to holding giant corporations and manufacturers accountable to safety standards and to consequences if their negligence leads to harm. That is exactly what we are doing in this case for the baby food autism lawsuits.

Baby food manufacturers need to be held accountable for the safety and integrity of their food products. Parents trust that the baby food they buy from seemingly reputable companies and at reputable stores is safe and won’t cause serious brain damage or life-long conditions to their children.

We stand with you and all the families affected by this issue and are dedicated to advocating for your children's rights. To speak to one of Lawsuit Legal News’ attorneys, contact us here. We offer a completely free case evaluation.


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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