What is the Similac Lawsuit?

What is the Similac Lawsuit?

Parents of babies born preterm are filing lawsuits against Abbott Laboratories, makers of Similac baby formula. The lawsuits allege the company failed to warn them that feeding premature babies its cow’s milk-derived formula put these vulnerable infants at increased risk of developing a devastating intestinal disease known as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). By filing a Similac lawsuit, parents of babies seek to recover damages and hold the company responsible for the harm it caused. The lawsuits also make the same claim against Enfamil baby formula and its manufacturer, Mead Johnson.

What Baby Formulas are Included in the Similac Lawsuit?

Abbott Laboratories manufactures the following Similac infant formulas and Human Milk Fortifiers:

  • Similac Special Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Alimentum Expert Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Similac Special Care 20
  • Similac Special Care 24
  • Similac Special Care 24 High Protein
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Special Care 30
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein-Concentrated Liquid

What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)?

NEC is a gastrointestinal disease that occurs when bacteria invade the wall of the intestines, causing infection and inflammation, and leading to damage and cell death in all or part of the intestines. In severe cases, the bacteria can perforate the intestines and seep into the abdomen or bloodstream.

NEC affects only one in 2,000 to 4,000 births in the U.S., but it is the most common GI emergency in neonatal intensive care units. It primarily affects premature infants (those born less than 37 weeks of gestation). Symptoms usually present a few days to a few weeks after birth.

NEC is a devastating diagnosis for any parent to hear. Treatment often involves stopping all feedings and providing nutrition through an intravenous catheter. Doctors place a nasogastric tube through the baby’s nose to suction any fluids from the stomach and antibiotics are given to treat the infection. X-rays are used to monitor the progression of the disease. Oxygen or mechanical breathing is provided, as needed. Isolation procedures are often put in place to prevent the spread of infection. While lifesaving, this treatment robs parents of precious bonding time with their new baby in the days and weeks following their birth.

Prompt medical intervention can resolve symptoms in most cases, and these babies can go on to live healthy lives. However, babies with severe NEC may require blood transfusions or surgery to remove damaged parts of the intestines. Mortality rates range from 10 to 50%, but severe cases that involve perforation, peritonitis, and sepsis, are almost always fatal. Those who do survive often develop long-term complications.

How Does Similac Cause NEC in Premature Babies?

Research dating back to 1990 has found that one of the main causes of NEC in premature infants is baby formula derived from cow’s milk instead of human breast milk. A 1990 study published in The Lancet found that premature babies fed formula derived from cow’s milk were 6 to 10 times more likely to develop NEC than babies fed exclusively breastmilk, and premature babies fed cow’s milk-based formula as a supplement to breast milk were three times more likely to develop the disease.

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a Call to Action in 2011 highlighting The Importance of Breastfeeding and cautioning, “For vulnerable premature infants, formula feeding is associated with higher rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).”

Subsequent studies have further established the link between the use of cow’s milk-derived infant formulas in premature infants and NEC, including a May 2020 study published in Breastfeeding Medicine, which found that very low birthweight premature infants fed formula derived from cow's milk had a 4.2-fold increased risk of developing NEC compared to those fed human milk-based formulas, and a 5.1-fold increased risk of NEC surgery or death.  

Despite the years of scientific evidence, Abbott Laboratories refuses to add warnings about the risk of NEC to babies born preterm and continues to market Similac to parents of these vulnerable infants.  

What is the Status of Similac Lawsuits?

When parents learned about the decades of evidence linking an increased risk of NEC in premature infants to cow’s milk-based baby formulas, they were devastated that the makers of Similac and Enfamil never warned them. Lawsuits against Abbott Laboratories and Enfamil maker Mead Johnson began piling up.

In April 18, 2022, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all NEC baby formula lawsuits into a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Illinois under Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer. At least 180 cases are pending in the MDL.

Do I Qualify for a Similac Baby Formula Lawsuit?

You may qualify to file an NEC baby formula lawsuit if your baby was:

  • Born prematurely (less than 37 weeks gestation)
  • Fed Similac or Enfamil infant formula or human milk fortifier
  • Subsequently diagnosed with NEC

Talk to a Lawyer About Your NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit

If your child was harmed by Similac or Enfamil infant formula as a preemie, you may be eligible to recover compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. You shouldn’t have to pay for the harm the manufacturers of these products caused your baby. Contact the experienced team of mass tort and product liability lawyers at Lawsuit Legal News at 866-467-0943 or through this online form for a free case consultation.


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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