A panel of federal judges has decided that all necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) lawsuits, regardless if they are filed against Similac or Enfamil will be consolidated throughout the federal court system.
Both formulas are popular with
by doctors and hospitals for premature babies in the NICU. However, increasing research has found that the cow’s milk products greatly increase the risk of preemies developing NEC; an intestinal disorder that results in a painful destruction of the bowel, often resulting in emergency surgery or infant death.
Dozens of families are now pursuing a Similac NEC lawsuit or Enfamil NEC lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson, alleging the manufacturers have known for years about the risks associated with use of their products among premature infants, with many cases involving babies that were fed both products while still in the NICU after birth.
The consolidated procedure is welcomed by plaintiffs since the facts will be similar and a consolidated process for what will most likely be hundreds if not thousands of cases will be smoother.
On April 8, after hearing oral arguments in late March, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued an order (PDF) establishing a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the NEC lawsuits over Similac and Enfamil, transferring all claims to U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois, which was one of the venues proposed by plaintiffs.
“After considering the argument of counsel, we find that centralization of these actions in the Northern District of Illinois will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” the JPML stated in the transfer order. “All actions can be expected to share factual questions arising from allegations that cow’s milk-based infant formula products marketed under the Similac and Enfamil brand names have a higher propensity to cause necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in infants born prematurely than other, allegedly safer alternatives.”
The JPML noted that 16 actions were currently pending in seven different federal districts, and there are another 20 potentially-related cases filed across eight districts. However, as NEC injury lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months and years, the size of the litigation is expected to increase significantly.