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December 15, 2021

Keller Lenkner LLC Seeks Statewide Consolidation of Infant Formula Product Liability Cases

National plaintiffs’ law firm Keller Lenkner LLC on Tuesday moved to consolidate all cases pending in Illinois courts that allege Enfamil and Similac infant formula products caused premature infants to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is an inflammation of the intestines that can lead to rupture or death. The defendants in the litigation are Mead Johnson & Company LLC and Mead Johnson Nutrition Company (the manufacturers of Enfamil) and Abbott Laboratories (the manufacturer of Similac). All of the defendants are headquartered in Illinois.

To date, Keller Lenkner has filed suit in Illinois courts on behalf of more than 75 plaintiffs from across the country who allege that defendants’ products injured them or their children. Before moving for statewide consolidation, Keller Lenkner and other law firms negotiated an aggressive trial schedule in Madison County, Illinois, with the first trial scheduled for March 2023. Statewide consolidation would send all of Keller Lenkner’s complaints—as well as at least a dozen others already filed by other firms—to Madison County Circuit Court for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. Cases originally filed in Madison County would remain there for trial. Others would ultimately return to be tried in the court in which they were originally filed. 

Led by Keller Lenkner Partner Ashley Keller, Managing Partner Travis Lenkner, and Associate Amelia Frenkel, along with co-counsel Alexandra Walsh and Kim Channick from Walsh Law PLLC, the litigation highlights the risk to premature infants from defendants’ cow’s milk-based infant formula products. Decades of research has established that premature infants who are fed cow’s milk and cow’s milk-based products are more likely to develop NEC. But defendants have neither reformulated their products to make them safer, nor have they warned about the increased risk.

According to the National Institute of Health and Journal of Pediatrics, approximately 9,000 of the 480,000 infants born preterm each year in the United States develop NEC. The disease, which can develop suddenly and progress rapidly, is a leading cause of infant death. Of those diagnosed with NEC, nearly a quarter will die. Half of those who survive will be left to suffer neurodevelopmental disabilities, severe intestinal issues, or both.

“The defendants’ formulas caused these vulnerable infants to suffer long-term, adverse, and devastating health effects. Defendants failed to warn consumers of their products’ dangers and aggressively marketed their cow’s milk-based products as medically endorsed and nutritionally equivalent alternatives to breast milk,” Lenkner said. “By centering this litigation in Madison County, where the lion’s share of cases are already on file and progressing toward trial, we hope to move quickly through the stages of litigation toward resolution of our clients’ claims.”

The action is Destin Jupiter and Dana Jupiter et al. v. Mead Johnson & Company, LLC, Mead Johnson Nutrition Company, Abbott Laboratories, and it is filed in the Illinois Supreme Court. Other firms with cases on file in Illinois include Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings PLLC; Cates Mahoney LLC; Freese & Goss, PLLC; The Holland Law Firm; Kaveny + Kroll; Levin, Rojas, Camassar & Reck LLC; Morgan & Morgan; and TorHoerman Law.