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A New Jersey mom recently filed a new Similac lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She claims that her premature child consumed the formula shortly after birth and that it caused him serious injuries.

Doctors Fed Premature Baby Infant Formula

According to the complaint, the plaintiff gave birth to her baby on December 30, 2021. The baby was extremely premature and had a low birth weight of only 712 grams at 24 weeks and 6 days gestation.

Doctors placed the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey. The baby’s mother—the plaintiff—diligently pumped breastmilk and provided it to be fed to the baby.

Doctors began enteral (directly into the stomach) feeds on her first day of life, and also fed her intravenously (parenteral feeding). They advanced to full-volume enteral feeds by her tenth day of life.

During the time the baby was fed enteral nutrition until February 21, 2022, the NICU staff fed her breastmilk—either the plaintiff’s expressed milk or donor milk—with the “additive” Similac Human Milk Fortifier. Some of these enteral feedings included both Similac Human Milk Fortifier and Abbott Nutrition Liquid Protein Fortifier as additives to the human milk.

On February 21, 2022, the NICU staff transitioned the baby to formula, including Similac Special Care 24 High Protein and Similac Special Care 30 High Protein.

Defendants Advertised Their Formula Products as Good for Premature Infants

On March 14, 2022, the baby suffered from an acute abdominal crisis caused by necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a dangerous and sometimes life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. Doctors performed surgery, removing some of her intestines. Nonetheless, the baby suffered from multi-system organ failure and cardiac arrest and died. The plaintiff, her mother, witnessed these horrific events.

Based on the defendant’s marketing of its formula and fortifiers—including advertising these products as perfect for premature infants—the baby’s parents believed the products were safe and necessary for her growth. They had no idea that cow’s-milk-based products could increase the risk of their child getting NEC and dying.

Cow’s-Milk Formula Linked with Increased Risk of NEC

The plaintiff points out that as early as 1990, a prospective multicenter study on 926 preterm infants found that NEC was 6 to 10 times more common in exclusively formula-fed babies than in babies fed breastmilk alone, and 3 times more common than in those who received formula plus breastmilk. Other studies over the years have shown the same results, yet baby formula manufacturers like Abbott continue to advertise their cow’s milk-based products as safe for premature infants.

Premature infants have immature digestive systems, especially when compared to term infants. This makes them vulnerable to NEC. Their immune systems are also significantly different than those of term infants, which compounds their susceptibility to NEC when fed unsafe products.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the case.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recently consolidated all federally filed NEC Infant Formula lawsuits into the Northern District of Illinois for pre-trial proceedings.

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