Local News

Infant formula price-fixing case goes to N.C....

Posted December 11, 1996 12:00 a.m. EST

— Some North Carolina charities would share $740,000 worth of infant formula under a proposed settlement in a multi-state infant formula price-fixing case.

The deal is part of a $64 million agreement reached earlier this year with plaintiffs in 16 states who had joined a class-action lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories and the Mead Johnson subsidiary Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Abbott produces Similac and Mead Johnson makes Enfamil brand infant formula.

The North Carolina settlement is scheduled to go before Jackson County Superior Court Judge Marlene Hyatt on Friday, according to the court clerk's office in Sylva.

The lawsuit claimed the companies caused infant formula prices to rise 120 percent in the past 10 years, while the price of milk - formula's principal ingredient - rose only 36 percent.

Dr. Mike Waldon, a professor of economics, explained the ramifications of the alleged violation, and of the case.

Under terms of the settlement, the companies do not admit to price-fixing.

The case was a class-action brought by individual plaintiffs, said Dan Small, an attorney with Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld and Toll in Washington, D.C.

In North Carolina, the lead plaintiffs are identified as Suzanne Hyde and Lynn Meeks.

In nine states, consumers will get money from the settlement. In North Carolina and five other states, the money or formula products will be given to charity.

Meanwhile, the reports of the settlements in which consumers get money prompted a flood of calls to North Carolina health departments, social services offices and even the state attorney general's office Wednesday.

Questions about the North Carolina case were referred to Rust Consulting Inc. in Minneapolis, but no one was available there Wednesday who could provide details.

Pete Paradossi, spokesman for Bristol-Myers, said Tuesday the company still denies any wrongdoing. Bristol-Myers is paying $31.8 million in cash and products. Rhonda Luniak, spokeswoman for Abbott Laboratories, said her company had agreed to settlements totaling $32.5 million nationwide. Questions about the settlement? Call 1-612-359-2064 Or write:

Settlement Administration, Infant Formula Litigation, P.O. Box 1602, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1602.

Send a self-addressed stamped envelope and a letter naming the state where the formula was purchased.

By SUE PRICE WILSON,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.