Plaintiffs in baby formula litigation to push for case-consolidation at MDL hearing

  • Plaintiffs and Abbott support creation of multidistrict litigation
  • MDL would be second this year over baby formula products

July 27 - Plaintiffs who sued Abbott Laboratories after it recalled baby formula over contamination concerns are set to urge the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Seattle on Thursday to consolidate their cases.

Court records show Abbott is facing at least 30 lawsuits in federal courts across the country over claims that its mishandling of baby formula manufactured at a plant in Sturgis, Michigan, allowed the powder to be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria.

In a court filing, Abbott said the cases, filed after the recall, were “duplicative” and that there was no evidence of the bacteria in question in any of Abbott’s sealed, distributed formula products.

Abbott said it doesn’t oppose centralization of the suits and wants them sent to U.S. District Judge John Kness in Chicago, who already is overseeing several similar cases against the company. A lawyer for Abbott directed requests for comment to the company, which did not immediately respond.

In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they were investigating reports of bacterial infections in infants who consumed formula made at the Sturgis plant.

That month, Abbott issued a voluntary recall of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products, a moment Abbott chief executive Robert Ford said in a Washington Post op-ed had exacerbated the massive, ongoing shortage of baby formula products in the U.S.

Attorneys representing parents and caretakers are hoping the panel will send all the pending lawsuits to judges in Florida, Michigan or Illinois, according to court records.

Sam Geisler of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, which has four of the cases, is among those arguing before the panel. Geisler said he will push to have the cases sent to U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in the Southern District of Florida, who is overseeing one of the earliest lawsuits over the formula. Alternatively, Geisler said he will urge the court to send the cases to U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal in the same court.

Geisler, who said the suits include injury claims, economic loss claims and proposed class actions, said there is a “critical mass” of lawsuits right now that warrant an MDL. He said the MDL, if created, could grow to include a few hundred cases total.

Abbott is also defending against claims about its formula products in another MDL based out of Chicago, which has consolidated 97 lawsuits filed over claims of premature infants suffering from a disease called necrotizing enterocolitis after consuming cow’s milk-based formula.

The case is In re: Recalled Abbott Infant Formula Product Liability Litigation, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, No. 3037,

For the plaintiffs: Bryan Aylstock, Caitlyn Prichard Miller and Sam Geisler of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz; and Jason Thompson of Sommers Schwartz

For Abbott: James Hurst of Kirkland & Ellis

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