(Reuters) – The federal judge overseeing mass tort litigation over claims that babies were sickened by formula from an Abbott Laboratories plant closed earlier this year has appointed lawyers at Johnson Becker and Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz to lead the plaintiffs’ efforts.
Johnson Becker’s Stacy Hauer and Aylstock Witkin’s Sam Geisler will serve as co-lead counsel in the multidistrict litigation, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in Chicago ruled Thursday. They will be responsible for coordinating the work of the plaintiffs’ steering committee, which includes a further 10 attorneys from other firms tasked with representing the interests of all plaintiffs in pretrial proceedings.
Chicago-based Abbott has said there is no evidence it shipped any contaminated formula to consumers.
However, the company earlier this year closed its Sturgis, Michigan, plant and recalled batches of formula from it after U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors found unsafe conditions and bacterial contamination there. The closure, which continued until early July when the company reopened the plant under a consent decree with the FDA, contributed to a nationwide formula shortage.
A separate multidistrict litigation, including more than 100 lawsuits, over claims that Abbott formula led to a deadly illness in preterm infants is already pending in the same Chicago federal court before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer. Abbott has denied those allegations.
The company is also facing a proposed class action by a shareholder claiming it concealed safety problems before the recall.
The case is In re Recalled Abbott Infant Formula Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, case number not yet assigned.
For plaintiffs: Stacy Hauer of Johnson Becker, Sam Geisler and Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz and others.