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Brown & Crouppen Files Suit Over Infant Death And Illness Linked To Contaminated Formula

St. Louis-based law firm Brown & Crouppen has filed suit against Mead Johnson Nutrition Company (NYSE: MJN), alleging that contaminated Enfamil powdered baby formula was responsible for the death of one infant from meningitis and serious illness in two others.

The lawsuit, Shelby Schrack, et al. v. Mead Johnson Nutrition Company and Mead Johnson & Company, Cause no. 12-L-549, was filed October 16, 2012, in St. Clair County (Illinois) Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, 10-day-old Avery Cornett died on Dec. 18, 2011, of meningitis caused by the bacterium Chronobacter sakazakii. Cornett had been fed Enfamil Premium Newborn powdered formula from batch ZP1K7G.

Porsche Rapacz, born Nov. 23, 2011, was fed Enfamil Premium Newborn powdered formula from batch ZP1K7G after her discharge from the hospital on Nov. 25, 2011. She was rehospitalized and treated for meningitis after becoming lethargic and feverish 29 days after her birth.

Nadilynn Mohler, born on Oct. 28, 2011, was fed Enfamil Premium Newborn from batch ZP1GNS and Enfamil Gentlease from batch ZP1HZP after her discharge from the hospital. On Nov. 29, 2011, her parents called the pediatrician because Nadilynn had a fever. A cerebrospinal fluid culture revealed C. sakazakii, and Nadilynn was hospitalized and treated for meningitis.

Babies younger than 29 days do not have mature immune systems, and foods contaminated with certain bacteria can cause serious injury or death. The suit asserts that powdered formula may contain such bacteria as C. sakazakii, which can cause meningitis. The suit also alleges that:

  • Since the beginning of this century, environmental sampling from Mead Johnson’s facilities has revealed harmful bacteria in raw ingredients, premix product and finished products
  • After being alerted in 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested newborn food at manufacturing facilities, including those of the defendant, and reported in March 2004 that 23 percent of samples contained harmful bacteria
  • In 2002, J. Roberto Moran, M.D., then a vice president and medical director for Mead Johnson, warned a limited number of healthcare professionals but not consumers: “No infant formula powders made today are commercially sterile…. Therefore we recommend that liquid formulas should be used in hospital settings. We strongly recommend that powdered infant formulas not be used in neonates or immunocompromised patients in hospital settings.”
  • Mead Johnson has refused to publicize or educate caregivers on the critical importance of safe preparation practices such as heating water to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Every case of newborn bacterial meningitis documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been associated with powdered newborn food except one, and the newborn in that case may have been fed its twin’s food because of a crib card switch that resulted in misidentification.

The suit seeks significant damages for negligence, failure to warn, strict liability, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, express warranty and fraud.

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