Jury Awards $60 Million to Family Over Infant Formula NEC Tragedy

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A Jury Awarded $60M To A Mother After Her Premature Baby, Fed Enfamil In The Hospital, Died From Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC).

A mother whose premature baby tragically died from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed cow’s milk-based infant product Enfamil in hospital has been awarded $60 million by a jury. 

The jury ruled that Jasmine Watson should get $35 million for loss of society; $10 million for grief, sorrow and suffering; and $5 million apiece for the loss of her son Chance Dean’s normal life, his emotional distress and his pain and suffering.

The lawsuit

Watson gave birth to Chance Dean and his twin brother Chase in 2020, when the twins were 31 weeks premature, Daily Hornet reports. After being fed Enfamil in the hospital, Chance developed the serious gastrointestinal disease NEC and died.

Watson filed the lawsuit against Enfamil manufacturer Mead Johnson accusing the company of negligence and failing to warn parents and doctors that the formula increases risks of babies developing NEC, amongst other things. Watson is one of many families changing the company in a large multi district litigation lawsuit. Her case was the first to go to trial. 

“This verdict confirms what Mead Johnson has known for years: cow’s-milk based baby formula causes NEC in preterm infants, often with fatal consequences,” one of Watson’s attorneys Ben Whiting said in a statement. “The jury validated what every reasonable person thinks: Abbott and Mead’s baby formula should not kill babies.”

What is NEC?

NEC is the most common, serious gastrointestinal disease affecting newborn infants and it is most often seen in premature babies, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Symptoms can appear suddenly or develop over several days, and they commonly include:

  • Poor tolerance of feeding (not being able to digest food)
  • Bloating or swelling of the stomach (abdominal distention)
  • Stomach discoloration, usually bluish or reddish
  • Pain when someone touches the abdomen
  • Blood in the stools or a change in their volume or frequency
  • Diarrhea, with change in the color and consistency of the stool, often containing frank (visible) blood

Treatment varies for the severity of each case, but includes vigorous supportive care, resting the intestine by feeding through an intravenous tube instead of the mouth, and can include antibiotics and emergency surgery.

Research links Enfamil with NEC

While the cause of NEC is not well known, John Hopkins Medicine says common thought is a drop in blood flow to the bowel stops the bowel from producing mucus that protects the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria in the intestine may also be a cause, the organization says.

Research collated by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says in premature babies, the cause could be related to the immaturity of the child’s digestive system. NEC involves infection and inflammation in the child’s gut, which may stem from the growth of dangerous bacteria or the growth of bacteria in parts of the intestine where they do not usually live. Because Enfamil is made from cow's milk it contains a number of bacterias, and a number of studies have linked the product with causing NEC in premature babies.

What happens next?

Hundreds of other parents are also suing baby formula manufacturers accusing they downplayed or outright didn’t warn parents about the risks of NEC, which has been known since at least the 1990s. The lawsuits will likely end up with more settlements for grieving parents, and hopefully in an industry wide change in how the products are marketed so parents are aware of the risks posed.

Currently, more than 400 baby formula lawsuits for NEC have been centralized into the multi district litigation under U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer in the Northern District of Illinois. If your family has had to deal with the stress of NEC after your baby was fed a cow’s milk formula, it is worth getting legal advice on how you could join the major lawsuit.

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