$60 Million Verdict in Enfamil Baby Formula NEC Case Underscores Need for Transparency and Accountability

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An Illinois jury has awarded $60 million to the plaintiff in the first in a series of trials out of hundreds of baby formula necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) lawsuits claiming that various Enfamil and Abbott Laboratories’ Similac formulas caused necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Plaintiffs in this multidistrict litigation claim that the companies hid the information that their formula, including products designed for premature infants, posed a higher risk compared to alternatives such as donor milk.

According to a Reuters article on the verdict, the award in this first trial includes compensation for plaintiff Jasmine Watson’s loss and grief, as well as for the pain and suffering of her baby, Chance Dean, who tragically passed away from an intestinal disease after consuming Mead Johnson’s Enfamil baby formula.

The decision came after the jury found Mead Johnson negligent for failing to adequately warn consumers about the risks associated with NEC, a severe condition that primarily impacts premature infants. NEC can lead to the death of bowel tissue and carries a fatality rate ranging from 15% to 40%.

“This verdict underscores the significance of transparent communication and accountability in product safety, particularly when it comes to items intended for vulnerable populations like infants,” said Levin Papantonio Rafferty Attorney Sara Papantonio, who is representing families who have suffered from infant-formula-caused NEC in their pursuit of justice.

“It is crucial for parents and healthcare providers to understand these risks and so they can make informed decisions regarding infant feeding, and they should be able to rely on product makers and suppliers to convey the information to guide those decisions.”

A new study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2024 states there is evidence that formula increases the risk of NEC in premature infants compared with breast milk.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has published research stating that NEC is “the most common life-threatening emergency affecting the gastrointestinal tract of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.” The study identifies several risk factors for NEC, with primary risks being prematurity, low birth weight, and formula feeding.