U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said on Friday that Joanne Noriega's complaint set forth "strong, evidence-backed reasons" to doubt Abbott's claim that clinical studies supported its marketing claims.

Noriega cited three studies funded by Abbott itself that found no connection between PediaSure and growth in height.

"The existence of studies contradicting the label's claim reinforce the plausibility of the complaint's allegation that the label would mislead a reasonable consumer," Engelmayer wrote.

Abbott and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment after business hours.

Noriega, from Bronx, New York, said she had bought PediaSure Grow & Gain vanilla and strawberry drinks for her 8-year-old grandson, who was "short for his age," believing they would help him get taller. She said that after a year of drinking two PediaSure drinks per day, her grandson was still short but had become "so overweight" that she stopped buying the drinks.

James Denlea, a lawyer for Noriega, said in an interview he was pleased with the decision, which lets his client gather more evidence through the discovery process.

Abbott had access to studies that "completely debunked any notion that its milkshake could help children grow," Denlea said. "The marketing was misleading, and Abbott knew that to be the case."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for New Yorkers who were deceived into buying or overpaying for PediaSure.

Abbott has said PediaSure is intended for children ages 2 to 13, and helps them "grow out of at-risk weight-for-height percentiles (5th-25th percentiles)" within eight weeks.

PediaSure is part of the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company's pediatric nutritional segment, which also includes Pedialyte and Similac.

The case is Noriega v Abbott Laboratories, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 23-04014.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

By Jonathan Stempel