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Manufacturers Request Baby Formula MDL Consolidation

Riddle Brantley LLP   |  March 4, 2022   |  

Is a Baby Formula MDL on the Horizon?

Defendants have requested that baby formula lawsuits be consolidated in multi-district litigation (MDL)Recently, the public has been made aware of potential risks associated with giving bovine-based formulas to preterm and high-risk infants. These formulas have been associated with a higher risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a dangerous and potentially fatal condition for infants. Now, an onslaught of lawsuits against popular formula manufacturers Abbott Laboratories and Meade Johnson has prompted these companies to request all pending lawsuits be consolidated into multi-district legislation (MDL).

Multi-district litigation is a legal mechanism designed to streamline the litigation process when many (sometimes hundreds or even thousands) of similar lawsuits have been filed against the same defendant(s). MDL is advantageous for both plaintiffs and defendants, making the process more efficient and cost-effective.

How Many Lawsuits Could Be Consolidated in a Baby Formula MDL?

As of publishing, there are around 60 infant formula lawsuits pending in local and federal courts nationwide that could potentially be consolidated into MDL. There is no word yet on whether the MDL request will be granted, but there are several reasons to believe it will.

Most notably, the plaintiffs in these cases also support the MDL consolidation, and lawyers representing a group of plaintiffs with pending federal cases have submitted a brief to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) indicating their support of the consolidation. We also anticipate that hundreds more baby formula NEC lawsuits may be filed in the near future.

Why Are So Many Lawsuits Pending Against Baby Formula Manufacturers?

The baby formula NEC lawsuits that are currently pending accuse baby formula manufacturers of not informing the public about the potential risks associated with feeding bovine-based formulas to infants. The primary concern for parents is the development of NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) in preterm infants.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, NEC is a potentially fatal condition in which the tissue in the large intestine gets inflamed and can lead to tissue damage and intestinal ruptures. Preterm babies are at a higher risk for developing NEC because they have a weaker circulatory system and a weakened ability to digest food, which is where many studies find a link between formula and NEC.

Studies have found a clear link between a higher risk for NEC in infants who were fed bovine-based formulas over those who were breastfed, leaving many consumers wondering why such a link is not clearly disclosed by manufacturers of bovine-based formulas.

Manufacturer Response

So far, there has been no recall of the products that are named in these lawsuits, and both Abbott and Meade are maintaining that their formulas are safe and effective. However, many consumers remain unconvinced. One of the key questions that consumers are presenting to these manufacturers is why they have yet to develop more of their product line using alternatives to bovine-based formula. These alternative formulas carry less risk than cow’s milk formulas and provide largely the same nutritional value.

What’s Next for Baby Formula Lawsuits?

Abbott, Meade, and the plaintiffs have all expressed their desire to consolidate the current pending federal lawsuits into an MDL. However, this does not cover lawsuits that are currently pending in state courts. There is some speculation that these lawsuits in the state court will be dismissed and re-filed into federal court.

There is also speculation that there are not currently enough cases pending in federal court to warrant an MDL. However, based on the fact that all parties are in agreement on consolidation alongside the possibility of more cases being brought into the federal court after being dismissed at the state level, it is increasingly likely that the JPML will grant the request for consolidation.

If a baby formula MDL is set up for NEC lawsuits, a court district will have to be decided upon to try the cases, and a judge appointed. After this, a trial date will be set, the outcome of which will likely determine the fate of all subsequent NEC lawsuits brought against formula manufacturers.

Do You Have a NEC Baby Formula Claim?

If your infant has been fed cow’s milk-based baby formula in the hospital and was later diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), you may be entitled to compensation in a potential baby formula lawsuit. Our attorneys are actively investigating these claims. Please call 1-800-525-7111 for a FREE, no-obligation consultation and let’s see how we can help.

These are heartbreaking cases and our compassionate trial attorneys are ready to help however they can. Call 1-800-525-7111 and let us listen to your story.

Justice Counts.