Status Conferences in Tylenol Liver Failure Litigation Set Through 2014

The U.S. District Judge presiding over the consolidated pretrial proceedings in all Tylenol liver failure lawsuits in the federal court system has scheduled a series of status conferences throughout 2014, with the parties meeting about once per month as preparations continue for a series of early trial dates in the litigation.  

Johnson & Johnson currently faces at least 120 product liability lawsuits filed in the federal court system on behalf of former users who allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of liver failure from Tylenol side effects. 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.

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According to a Case Management Order (PDF) issued by Judge Stengel on January 8, the parties are scheduled to meet with the Court for the first status conference of the year on January 21. This will be followed by monthly meetings around the middle of each month over the remainder of they year.

The parties are currently working on generic discovery and are expected to select a small group of lawsuit to undergo case-specific discovery this year. According to a Case Management Order (PDF) issued in October 2013, a series of six cases will be eligible for early trial dates in the litigation, including three cases that will be selected by each side before April 1, 2014. Core case-specific discovery will be completed on those cases between May and August 1, with each party suggesting one case to the court for the first bellwether trial by September 1, 2014. Therefore, the first trials could begin by the end of this year, or in early 2015 if a Tylenol settlement agreement is not reached before then.

Tylenol Liver Damage Risks

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.

Early this year, Judge Stengel is expected to hold a Tylenol science day, where the parties will be able to provide a “tutorial” to the Court on the science that will be involved in the cases.

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