Gardnerville attorney makes sure infants can get formula |

Gardnerville attorney makes sure infants can get formula

Linda Hiller

All families in Nevada should have equal access to infant formula, even if they come from low-income families.

In so many words, that is what a May 30 ruling by Judge Steve Elliot in Washoe District Court has determined.

The case began in Florida in 1980, according to Minden attorney Don Springmeyer who represented Nevada plaintiffs.

In the class action, plaintiffs charged that infant formula makers, Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Mead Johnson, a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb, were fixing prices on their infant formula products.

“Someone in Florida got suspicious when the WIC (women, infants, children) program was buying huge quantities of infant formula,” Springmeyer said. “What they had noticed was that the prices for these formulas weren’t being advertised.”

Unadvertised prices usually indicate price fixing, he explained. That way, prices can’t be checked by the competition.

The Florida attorney general filed suit, and subsequently found that there had been a secret agreement not to advertise prices, thus keeping competition to a minimum, Springmeyer said.

“It turned out they were trying to keep the Swiss company, Nestle, out of the United States market,” he added.

Seventeen states have participated in the class action thus far, Springmeyer said. Specializing in antitrust, as well as food and drug product liability cases, he was the sole attorney handling Nevada’s case.

The terms of the Nevada settlement are that the two companies – Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbot Laboratories – must deliver $254,000 in infant formula products to food banks in Reno and Las Vegas. The food banks will in turn provide these products to low income families.

“I am very pleased with this settlement,” said Springmeyer, who, along with other state’s attorneys, agreed to waive his fee which would ordinarily run one third of the settlement, or more than $80,000.

“It is exciting to see low income children benefit as a result of our efforts. The civil justice system has been under fire lately. This settlement shows that when big corporations rip off Nevada consumers, our courts can protect them.”

Springmeyer said formula should be delivered sometime within the next month to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, 994 Packer Way in Sparks and to the Community Food Bank of Clark County, 4601 East Cheyenne Avenue in Las Vegas.

Diane Malone, director of the Carson Valley Community Food Closet, said she is in constant touch with the Sparks food bank and will bring some of the formula here to the Gardnerville facility when it is available.

The food closet is located at 1255 Waterloo Lane and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 – 4 p.m. Phone 782-3711 for more information.