Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson are asking a federal judge to throw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a child who allegedly died of acute liver failure after taking Infant Tylenol.
Trancen Sherfey began vomiting blood and died after just three doses of Infant Tylenol in February 2009. His mother, Stacy Sherfey, is now pursuing a product liability lawsuit against the drug makers, alleging that the child suffered liver damage from Tylenol side effects.
On February 14, Johnson & Johnson filed a motion to dismiss the claim (PDF), claiming that Sherfey waited too long to file the lawsuit. According to the drug makers, the complaint was filed more than three years after the child’s death in Nevada, a state that has a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims.
The family alleges that discovery rules prevented the statute of limitations from running because information was not known about the link between Tylenol and liver damage. Attorneys for the parents argue that the drug maker fraudulently concealed the risk of acute liver injury from Tylenol, indicating that Nevada law negates the statute of limitations in cases of fraudulent concealment.
However, attorneys for the pharmaceutical company maintain that the child’s reaction and means of death were so severe and immediate after being given the Infant Tylenol that the parents knew or should have known it was a potential cause then and began the litigation process within two years.
The case was originally brought in Nevada state court and later removed to the federal court system by the drug makers. The motion to dismiss comes after U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly denied the family’s motion to remand (PDF) the lawsuit back to state court.
Tylenol Liver Damage Litigation
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 120 Tylenol liver failure lawsuits filed in the federal court system on behalf of former users who allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risks associated with using the common pain medication.
All of the complaints raise similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson built an image for their blockbuster medication as safe and effective by withholding important information about the link between Tylenol and liver problems.
Amid the mounting lawsuits, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country in April 2013. The cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Tylenol is one of the most widely used painkiller medications in the United States, which has been used by millions of Americans. The medication contains acetaminophen as the active pharmceutical ingredient, which has been identified in recent years as a leading cause for liver injury in the United States.
The FDA has indicated that acetaminophen may be responsible for more than 50,000 emergency room visits each year, including 25,000 hospitalizations and over 450 deaths annually. In recent years, efforts have been ramped up to bring the risk of acetaminophen overdose to the public’s attention and to reduce the amount of liver injury cases linked to the popular analgesic, which is also found in other pain killers and a number of cold medications.
In 2011, 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. However, the lawsuits allege that the drug maker has withheld important safety information from the public for decades, ignoring the narrow window between the recommended dosage for Extra Strength Tylenol and the risk of liver injury.