On January 5, 2022 Shannon Hall filed a lawsuit – “an action arising out of the catastrophic and preventable death of a newborn baby who died due to a horrific and deadly disease caused and/or substantially contributed to by cow’s-milk based infant formula and/or fortifier.” Baby Eli was born prematurely on November 27, 2019 and he died January 7, 2020 after developing NEC.
Shannon was feeding Baby Eli her breast milk that was supplemented with donor breast milk by the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In December a human milk fortifier was added and Similac Special Care 30 calorie formula was also given every three to four hours – by early January the latter made up half of Baby Eli’s diet.
On January 6, Baby Eli became tachycardic and pale, with abdominal distension and bloating. This caused concern with the pediatric surgeon: it indicated that he may have necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening intestinal disorder that occurs when the wall of the intestine is invaded by bacteria, leading to destruction of the bowel and catastrophic injuries. Baby Eli was scheduled for a laparotomy one day after he was diagnosed with Stage III NEC. However, the NEC surgery was discontinued as a result of the baby’s fragile state.
“At the time of his death, Baby Eli’s parents were unaware of the fact that the [Similac] Cow’s Milk-Based Product Eli was fed caused or substantially contributed to his development of NEC and ultimately to his death,” according to the lawsuit.
NEC Similac and Enfamil Lawsuits
In this NEC Similac lawsuit and similar baby formula lawsuits filed last July in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois, devastated parents claim that both Similac and Enfamil manufacturers knew the dangers their formula products posed to preterm babies and unreasonable danger to premature infants. The parents claim that the formulas were “aggressively marketed” to them as being equivalent to, or even safer than breast milk, with no mention of the risk of NEC or other health problems. As well, the lawsuits accuse Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson & Co LLC and Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. of failing to respond to medical research that has drawn a connection between the cows' milk formula products and NEC, saying they should have either reformulated the products or warned about the risks. The manufacturers are accused of selling a defective product, negligence, wrongful death and more.
Shannon Hall filed her lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where at least 33 lawsuits have been filed against the makers of Enfamil and Similac in Illinois state courts since February, reports Reuters, adding that a motion was filed last November for the lawsuits to be consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL). The cases were filed on behalf of 85 preemies, and more are anticipated.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development estimates that NEC impacts about 9,000 preterm infants born each year in the United States.
Studies and Warnings
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the directive that premature infants should only be fed human-based milk. AAP, along with other major public health organizations, strongly caution against feeding Similac or other cow-milk formulas to premature infants. In 2019, Cochrane conducted a thorough review of 12 completed trials that involved 1871 infants. The studies indicated that the use of cow-based formula doubled the risk of a premature infant developing NEC.
To date, Enfamil and Similac labels do not include concerns about the risk of feeding cow-based milk formula to preemies. Plaintiffs’ attorneys assert the manufacturers of Enfamil and Similac should post warnings of potential death and risk of severe intestinal/colon issues.