Parent Sues Abbott Labs After Baby Develops Health Issues from Infant Formula

A parent filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Abbott Laboratories for the alleged injuries suffered by the plaintiff’s premature infant after feeding the baby Abbott’s cow’s milk-based formula and/or fortifier.

According to Wednesday’s complaint, Abbott’s products “caused the injured infant to develop Necrotizing Enterocolitis (hereinafter ‘NEC’), a life-threatening and potentially deadly intestinal disease characterized by inflammation and injury of the gut wall barrier that may advance to necrosis and perforation of the gut.” Necrosis, as defined as the death of organ or tissue cells. Furthermore, the plaintiff notes that their premature baby developed NEC after being fed Abbott’s Similac Cow’s Milk-Based products and has subsequently suffered significant injuries.

The plaintiff claims that premature or preterm babies, those born alive before 37 weeks, with low birth weights (under 1500 grams) that are fed cow’s milk-based formula or fortifier products tend to have a “significantly higher” rate of NEC. The parent asserts that companies manufacturing these formulas “often intentionally mislabel and misrepresent the contents of the products both to the public at-large and to the health care community, passing off these deadly products as something similar or even superior to human breast milk.”

The complaint states that science and research have demonstrated “strong links between cow’s milk-based products and NEC causing and/substantially contributing to death in preterm and severely preterm, low-weight infants, along with many other health complications and long-term risks to these babies.” According to the plaintiff, there are alternative products that are made from human or non-cow’s milk, but manufacturers of cow’s milk-based products continue to sell the cow’s-milk based products. The complaint cites a study from 1990 that found that “NEC was six to ten times more common in exclusively formula-fed babies than in those fed breast milk alone”; other studies were also cited in the complaint to show the purported link between NEC and infants fed cow’s milk-based formulas.

The plaintiff alleges that Abbott realized there was a shift in the medical community to support “an exclusive human milk-based diet for preterm infants,” so Abbott started to increasingly promote “human milk fortifiers,” which the plaintiff contends “misleadingly suggests that the product is derived from human milk, instead of being derived from Cow’s Milk.”

As a result, the plaintiff avers that Abbott has marketed the product to convince doctors and parents that the cow’s milk-based fortifiers are safe; that they are equal, or superior substitutes to breastmilk; and that doctors consider cow’s milk-based products their first choice. According to the complaint, Abbott also markets that its products are necessary for growth and safe for premature babies, despite purportedly knowing the risk posed by cow’s milk-based products and failing to warn about NEC and the risk of death. The plaintiff claims that there was no warning label on the defendant’s cow’s milk-based products.

Therefore, the plaintiff asserts that Abbott had misleading marketing and inadequately warned about potential risks and side effects, such as the risk of NEC and death.

The counts against Abbott are strict liability, negligence and failure to warn.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages; damages for past, present and future emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other non-economic losses; for past, present and future out-of-pocket costs, lost income, and other costs; interest and fees; and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Johnson Becker PLLC.

This lawsuit comes after numerous baby food manufacturers were sued in 2021 following a congressional report about toxic metals found in baby food. Abbot was previously sued in November 2021 for another baby getting NEC from the formula. Meanwhile, in February 2022, the Food and Drug Administration recalled certain powdered formulas after infants became ill from the formula, however these were not NEC related.