Baby formula is a product sold in liquid or powder form that parents use to feed their infants. Sometimes, a baby formula product may have an issue or defect. A recall would lead to the product being pulled from production and retail shelves where it is for sale. Some examples of how baby formula might be defective are as follows:
- Toxic ingredients were used in the manufacture of the product;
- There were foreign objects in the food, i.e., an object that does not belong in baby formula;
- The food product was found to present an Increased risk of food poisoning or other similar injuries;
- Ingredients used in the product were found to be spoiled;
- Various other defects that present unforeseen risks of injury to infants.
A baby formula product may be recalled for other reasons, such as when there is an issue with the warning labels on the product’s packaging.
How Do Product Recalls Work?
For example, in 2022, Abbott Laboratories voluntarily recalled several baby formula products it manufactured. It did this after the federal Food and Drug Administration received reports that four infants had become ill. The infants had consumed Abbott baby formula products with the brand names “Similac,” “Alimentum,” and “EleCare.”
The four infants had been hospitalized and diagnosed as having bacterial infections caused by two bacteria, Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport. Reportedly, one of the infants may have died of their infection. The four infants lived in three different states in the U.S.
Abbott published the brand names consumers were told to look for in their homes. It directed consumers to look at identification numbers on the bottom of the product container because only products with certain numbers were at issue and were to be thrown out and not consumed.
Additionally, Abbott set up a web page where consumers could check to see if the product they might have was included in the recall and published the page’s web address. Additionally, the company directed consumers to call a toll-free telephone number or visit another web page to get information on obtaining a refund or replacement product.
Later, Abbott reported that it had tested formula samples from the plants where the suspect product had been manufactured. The company also tested the product in the homes of the four infants who reportedly became ill. It claimed that it had found no evidence of bacteria in the samples. Abbott also reported that it did find evidence of the presence of Cronobacter in the Michigan plant, but it was located in an area that was not the area in which the baby formula was produced.
These are all steps that the manufacturer of a recalled product would be expected to take in the event of a recall.
Who Can Be Liable for Injuries Caused by Baby Formula?
The responsibility for injuries caused by baby formula can be traced to the food company that manufactured the product. In such cases, the product’s manufacturer and distributors may be legally liable under a strict product liability theory of law. In a strict liability case, a person must prove that a product had a defect and caused the personal injury.
In a case for strict product liability, a person who a product defect has injured does not have to prove that anyone was negligent in any way. Rather, the person only needs to prove that a product had a defect and that the defect was the direct cause of injury to the person.
Product defects are usually characterized as one of three types as follows, although, of course, other types are also possible:
- Design Defects: In the case of baby formula, this defect arises when the product is formulated. Perhaps the designers would use an ingredient that is harmful to infants as part of the design of it;
- Manufacturing Defects: These are defects that come into a product during manufacturing. In the case of baby formula, it may be that a harmful substance contaminates the product while it is being manufactured;
- Warning Defects: These are defects in warning labels. Labels that warn of known risks of using a product may be absent entirely from the packaging or may fail to warn consumers of all known risks.
Of course, if a person can prove a specific instance of negligence on the part of the manufacturer or distributor of baby formula, a person can always bring a lawsuit for negligence. This may work, for example, if a manufacturer or retailer of baby formula products were to sell the products knowing that they were subject to a recall.
What Are the Legal Remedies for a Baby Formula Injury?
The injury may be significant if an infant has been injured by baby formula or infant food. If so, parents may need legal action to seek compensation. In such cases, the legal remedy will typically involve an award of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages reimburse an injured person for their economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages compensate the injured party for losses such as hospital bills, the expense of medical treatment, and lost wages. Non-economic damages compensate for such things as pain and suffering.
If an infant’s injuries from defective formula or baby food prove fatal, the infant’s parents will file a wrongful death lawsuit. Again, in a wrongful death lawsuit, the remedy would be compensatory damages to cover economic losses, such as funeral expenses and any medical care that might have been provided before the death. The award would also address non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and losing a child’s companionship and comfort.
And, if a baby formula defect causes the same or similar injuries in many infants, a class action lawyer might organize a class action lawsuit for their families.
Do I Need Experts for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Proving that a product manufacturer put a defective product on the market and that the defect in the product caused a person’s injuries or death would most likely involve the assistance of various expert witnesses.
These would be product engineers who understand product design and manufacturing. Or, the experts may be medical experts who can testify about how the defect caused a person’s injury or death or the impact of an injury on the victim’s quality of life.
Several kinds of expertise might be needed to prove a strict product liability case. This is why a person whose infant has been injured would want to be represented by a lawyer who knows how to work with experts and manage expert testimony.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Baby Formula Recall Case?
If you believe that a baby formula product has injured your infant, you want to consult a defective products lawyer to discuss your situation. Such cases can be complex, but your attorney can provide you with the legal guidance needed from start to finish.
Your attorney would be able to review the facts of your case and determine whether a defect in a product caused injury to your infant. Your lawyer can guide you through seeking compensation if that is appropriate in your case. Your lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected and that you recover the compensation you are entitled to.