Baby Formula Lawsuits for Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP Product Liability Attorneys

Formula derived from cow’s milk is the focal point of nearly three dozen new lawsuits after infants developed the potentially fatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis. The disease which can be fatal, is a devastating disease that mostly impacts premature infants, where the wall of the intestine is invaded by bacteria, leading destruction of the bowel and often requiring emergency surgery while the baby is still in the NICU.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Necrotizing Enterocolitis is a “serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature babies. The condition inflames intestinal tissue, causing it to die.

A hole (perforation) may form in your baby's intestine. Bacteria can leak into the abdomen (belly) or bloodstream through the hole. NEC usually develops within two to six weeks after birth.

In some infants, NEC is mild. Others experience severe, life-threatening symptoms.”

The disease has been primarily associated with those infants born prematurely. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic estimates that the potentially fatal disease occurs 90% of the time in premature infants.

Healthcare providers classify NEC into types based on when symptoms start and what causes the condition. The different types of NEC include:

Classic: This most common type of NEC tends to affect infants born before 28 weeks of pregnancy. Classic NEC occurs three to six weeks after birth. In most instances, the baby is stable and doing well. Then the condition comes on suddenly, without warning.

Transfusion-associated: An infant may need a blood transfusion to treat anemia (lack of red blood cells). About 1 in 3 premature babies develop NEC within three days of getting a blood transfusion.

Atypical: Rarely, an infant develops NEC in the first week of life or before the first feeding.

Term infant: Full-term babies who get NEC usually have a birth defect. Possible causes include congenital heart condition, gastroschisis (intestines that form outside of the body) and low oxygen levels at birth.

Although rare, NEC outbreaks can happen in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). NICUs provide advanced medical care for premature and critically ill babies. During an outbreak, several infants can develop NEC at the same time. Bacteria, such as e. Coli, or other germs may cause these uncommon outbreaks.

In instances where the cow’s milk formula is the culprit, scientists have issued warnings that premature infants are particularly vulnerable to NEC if they’ve been fed with the cow milk formula. Although Similac and Enfamil have been aggressively marketed for use among premature infants, increasing evidence has found that the cow milk formula products greatly increase the risk of a NEC diagnosis compared to human milk, and health experts increasingly recommend the use of a mother or donor’s breast milk instead of formula whenever possible.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed in Illinois against Abbott Labs and Mead Johnson claiming cows' milk formula caused Necrotizing Enterocolitis and death in premature infants.

In a motion filed on Tuesday December 14th, the Illinois Supreme Court was asked to consolidate the lawsuits in Madison County, Illinois. The lawsuits would be joined for discovery and other pretrial matters, if granted.

The lawyers at Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo, & Plotkin are now accepting these baby formula cases. If your loved one has been seriously injured after being exposed to the cow’s milk formula and been diagnosed with NEC, contact us today for a free, initial consultation.

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