Tylenol Lawsuit Status Conference to be Held in MDL

Lawyers involved in the federal Tylenol lawsuits over liver damage are scheduled to meet today with the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal litigation for a status conference.

There are currently over 100 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system against Johnson & Johnson that have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The Tylenol cases are being coordinated during discovery and any early trial dates to reduce duplicative discovery across a large number of claims, eliminate conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and the Courts.

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All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the potential side effects of Tylenol and the risk that users may suffer liver problems, including liver failure and the need for a liver transplant.

The Tylenol status conference is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 3b of the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia, PA. According to a joint agenda (PDF) filed last week, the parties are expected to argue a pending Motion for Protective Order filed by Johnson & Johnson regarding the disclosure of information regarding Tylenol recalls, government investigations and other aspects of the case that the drug maker claims would prejudice the jury.

Johnson & Johnson also indicates that it wishes to dsicuss with the Court continuing issues relating to the coordination of the Tylenol MDL with New Jersey state court litigation.

The parties are currently conducting pretrial discovery, and will update Judge Stengel regarding the status of depositions scheduled throughout the first part of 2014.

In October, Judge Stengel established the discovery plan for the Tylenol liver injury lawsuits, laying out the ground rules for generic discovery that will apply to all cases and the exchange of fact sheets between the parties that will provide limited case-specific information.

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.

Eventually it is expected that Judge Stengel will eventually schedule a series of “bellwether” trials, which will result in a representative group of cases being prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other claims. The outcome of such “test” cases would be designed to facilitate a possible Tylenol settlement agreement that would avoid the need to schedule dozens of individual trials throughout the country.


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