Master Complaint Over Tylenol and Liver Failure Filed in MDL

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By: Austin Kirk | Published: July 2nd, 2013

A Master complaint has been established in the federal Tylenol litigation, which can now be used together with a simpler Short-Form Complaint for all future Tylenol liver failure lawsuits brought over the popular pain killer.

In April, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established consolidated proceedings for all cases brought in U.S. District Courts throughout the country that involve allegations that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn about the link between Tylenol and liver problems.

The Tylenol litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel for coordinated management during pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The centralization is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

While there are currently only a few dozen cases currently filed, the number of lawsuits is expected to continue to grow as Tylenol liver injury lawyers review and file additional claims, with hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints ultimately expected in the federal MDL, or Multi-District Litigation.

To streamline the process of bringing cases, Judge Stengel issued a case management order (PDF) on June 18, which establishes procedures for direct filing of cases in the MDL utilizing Short Form Complaints. Cases that would otherwise be filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country and then transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, may now be directly filed in the MDL for pretrial proceedings.

The Short Form Complaint references the Master Complaint (PDF), which outlines the general allegations presented in the litigation in further detail, including claims against Johnson & Johnson and its McNeil Consumer Healtcare subsidiary, for strict liability, breach of warranty, negligent failure to warn, negligent design defect, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, fraud, violation of consumer protection laws, fraudulent concealment, and loss of consortium. It seeks both compensatory and punitive damages as a result of the drug makers failure to adequately warn about the risk of liver failure from Tylenol.

Tylenol Liver Risks

Tylenol is a popular painkiller that has been widely used by millions of Americans, containing acetaminophen as the active pharmceutical ingredient. Side effects of acetaminophen have been linked to a risk of liver injury for decades, and the lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson and McNeil have withheld information from consumers about the risks associated with taking the medication and the toxic effects it may have on the liver.

According to the FDA, acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of liver injury in the United States. It is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency room visits each year, including 25,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Recent years have seen an increased effort to bring information about the risk of overdosing on acetaminophen or Tylenol to the public’s attention and to reduce the number of liver failure cases linked to the popular analgesic, which is also found in other pain killers and a number of cold medications.

Johnson & Johnson lowered the maximum recommended dosage on Tylenol and other acetaminophen-based products from 4,000 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day in 2011, after the FDA announced new limits on acetaminophen levels in prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet.

Judge Stengel has scheduled the next monthly conference in the Tylenol MDL for August 22, 2013.

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