NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit: Similac and Enfamil Lawsuit

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Written By Rocky Horton

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The NEC baby formula lawsuit refers collectively to a group of suits against the Similac and Enfamil brands of baby formulas. The main claim has been a link between these baby formulas and the serious condition known as NEC, which impacts pre-mature babies or preemies that have been fed on them.

If you or someone you know is dealing with NEC in preemies and is considering a NEC lawsuit, continue reading to learn how the cases are defined, the background of the current litigation, and the best way you can file a Similac lawsuit or Enfamil lawsuit successfully. As always, you should seriously consider seeking out a personal injury attorney experienced in corporate lawsuits of this kind to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

What is NEC in Preemies?

NEC in preemies stands for necrotizing enterocolitis diagnosed in premature babies, though it technically can affect any baby. NEC is an inflammation of the baby’s intestinal tissue, leading to holes forming. These holes can allow leakage of bacteria from the intestine to the abdomen, leading to inflammatory symptoms and, sometimes, death.

Babies can have mild cases of NEC where the bacteria enter the bloodstream but can be cleared. In premature babies, the digestive system is weak and slow, which impacts their immune systems and makes it hard for them to fight the NEC infection. Blood flow to those tissues, which are weak already, is slow in cases of NEC in preemies, further damaging the organ tissue.

NEC occurs 2-6 weeks after delivery with the main symptoms being abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and changes in vitals (temperature, blood pressure, heart rate). It is usually diagnosed with a blood test or fecal test.

NEC Preemie Statistics

NEC in preemies affects around 1 out of every 1,000 babies. Babies with a weight of fewer than 2 pounds are most susceptible to NEC, with NEC impacting around 7% of all births. By contrast, NEC only affects around 1 in 10,000 normal children, and the cases are normally milder.

These numbers equal around 9,000 infants in the United States that are diagnosed with NEC. Notably, full-term babies with NEC often have other conditions that make them susceptible, such as congenital heart disease.

Statistics show that NEC is the most common intestinal disease in babies born before their full term and therefore causes a large percentage of deaths in this group. Different babies handle NEC differently, with mortality rates ranging from 10% to 50%.

What is the NEC Lawsuit?

The NEC lawsuit is a series of medical malpractice suits resulting from the use of Similac and Enfamil baby formulas. These formulas based on cow milk have been shown to result in a higher percentage of NEC cases than other formulas.

Notably, the companies Mead Johnson and Abbot Laboratories are at the center of the lawsuits, though the prescribing doctors have also come under fire. Plaintiffs have argued that the companies knew about the dangers and still marketed their formulas as safe for premature infants.

Without any warnings about the formulas’ potential risks or side effects, including an overall lack of instruction on the use of the formulas, the companies are facing millions of dollars in damages.

NEC Similac Lawsuit

The Similac lawsuit involves many of their formula products, including Similac Special Care, NeoSure, Alimentum, Human Milk Fortifier Powder, and Special Care. Research has shown that replacing human milk formulas with cow milk formulas such as Similac increases an infant’s risk of developing NEC.

The evidence linking Similac to NEC has been mounting for decades, with recent studies confirming the link between NEC in preemies and cow-based formulas. Studies show that they are ten times more likely to develop NEC when using these formulas, which has led organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics to warn against the use of feeding cow-based formulas to premature babies.

NEC Enfamil Lawsuit

The Enfamil lawsuit is based on the same research as the Similac lawsuit. As another cow milk-based formula, Enfamil products pose a similarly increased risk of premature babies suffering from NEC. These risks have been evaluated in research studies since the 1990s but have only recently been confirmed enough to result in a baby formula lawsuit.

Mead Johnson, the manufacturer of Enfamil formulas including Enfamil Premature, Human Milk Fortifier, and the DHA & ARA Supplement, has declined to add warning labels to their products cautioning parents about the risks associated with cow-based formulas. One of the sticking points of the company’s position is that if Similac refused to post a similar warning on their products, only Enfamil’s sales would suffer from the blow to marketability posed by a warning label.

This has left the company open to the current NEC lawsuit, which has brought the research associated with NEC to light like never before.

Baby Formula Lawsuit Claims

The baby formula lawsuit focuses on the research linking NEC in preemies to the use of cow milk-based formulas like those sold by Similac and Enfamil. Plaintiffs point to the companies’ lack of safety warnings regarding their formulas as well as the marketing claims aimed directly at the nutritional needs of premature infants.

The NEC lawsuit has only resulted in a few dozen cases so far. But the failure of Enfamil and Similac to warn parents about the risks of using their formulas could lead to far more product liability and personal injury claims in the near future. In some places, the NEC lawsuit has already collated into a class action suit, with more plaintiffs surfacing every day.

What is the Average Compensation for a Baby Formula Lawsuit?

The average compensation for a baby formula lawsuit is high as of December 2022. This is because there have only been a few dozen cases taken to court and they have mostly involved serious injuries or even deaths as a result of contracting NEC from cow-based formulas by Similac and Enfamil.

The cases so far have average settlements amounting to $3.5 million. Of course, not all plaintiffs can win this amount. The damages sustained by your child and family as well as the jury’s subjective judging criteria heavily factor into your compensation.

The damages that can be compensated in a Similac lawsuit or Enfamil lawsuit include:

  • Medical bills both past and future
  • Pain and suffering both past and future
  • Out-of-pocket costs both past and future
  • Long-term health problems
  • Physical limitations both past and future
  • Lost wages due to emotional trauma

Every baby formula lawsuit is different. Speak with an experienced product liability attorney to learn about your potential for compensation and how much you can expect. 

Who Qualifies for a NEC Formula Lawsuit?

While many full-term infants can both be diagnosed with NEC and consume the stated baby formulas, there are certain requirements to file a NEC formula lawsuit. The first is that the baby must be premature. The second is that the infant consumed a cow milk-based formula such as Similac or Enfamil before being diagnosed with NEC. The third is that the infant must be diagnosed with NEC or its resulting conditions, including dead bowel.

If you do not meet these criteria, it may still be possible to file a personal injury suit, but it would not be part of the class-action suit against the doctors and formula manufacturers involved in the current proceedings.

What is the NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is the time to file a case for product liability. In the NEC baby formula cases, this time varies between states but is usually around two years from the date of the diagnosis or wrongful death of the infant.

Check with your state’s regulations or speak with a product liability attorney to learn the exact statute for your state. This number is important because you may not be able to file a class action suit if you miss the deadline, though you may still be able to hire an attorney and sue for damages in an individual suit. Each case is different, which is why it’s important to meet the statute for your state and follow the guidelines for filing, some of which are detailed below.

How to File a NEC Lawsuit?

The first step to filing a NEC lawsuit would be to find an experienced product liability lawyer. While possible to file on your own, it’s far more likely that you will receive the compensation you deserve if you utilize an attorney’s experience. They know the evidence that needs to be gathered, the documents that need to be filed, and the timeline in which it all has to happen.

However, you may still file on your own, which would involve some of the same steps. These include assembling your medical records to prove the NEC diagnosis as well as the formula your baby was fed. A death certificate is important evidence, if applicable. In cases involving lost wages, future damages, foreseeable medical expenses, and other future costs, you may need work slips, doctor’s notes, and other evidence that validates these claims.

Finally, receiving full compensation also relies on supporting your pain and suffering with evidence. This could include testimony from yourself or your family as well as personal diaries or therapy notes. Since a NEC lawsuit often involves emotional trauma, an experienced attorney can help you organize your thoughts on the case and validate your feelings to the jury so you can receive the compensation you deserve.


The NEC lawsuit is the culmination of decades of research into the effects of cow milk-based baby formula on the health of premature infants. Studies have shown that these formulas can cause NEC in these babies, which is a dangerous disease that causes inflammation and even perforation in their bowels, leading to vomiting and potentially sepsis and death.

The cases against Similac and Enfamil rely on the claims that they failed to inform parents about the known risks of cow milk-based formulas in premature infants. While any infant could be diagnosed with NEC, babies born before full term are particularly susceptible to it. That susceptibility increases tenfold with the use of cow milk formulas.An experienced product liability attorney can help you file your case by managing the statute of limitations in your state, compiling the evidence needed to verify your infant’s diagnosis as well as your family’s suffering, and assembling the case properly before a jury. While the NEC lawsuit is still young, dozens of additional plaintiffs have filed for compensation in the last months. If you or your family believe you deserve compensation for a baby formula lawsuit, contact a product liability attorney in your area to see if you have a case.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.