Dismissal Entered in More Than 500 Tylenol Lawsuits Brought By Families of Children Diagnosed with Autism, ADHD

In December, Judge Cote rejected the expert witnesses plaintiffs needed to prove that Tylenol use during pregnancy caused autism and ADHD.

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Tylenol autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) lawsuits pending in the federal court system has issued a final judgment dismissing hundreds of cases, after the Court excluded expert witness testimony that left families unable to provide that exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy left their children with severe developmental problems.

For decades, Tylenol (acetaminophen) has been widely used by pregnant women, largely due to the widespread belief that it is safe for unborn children. However, a growing number of lawsuits have been filed in recent years by families nationwide, each raising similar allegations that drug makers failed to adequately warn pregnant women about the growing evidence that in utero Tylenol prenatal exposure may cause autism or ADHD.

Given common questions of fact and law over the adequacy of the Tylenol pregnancy warnings, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings last year, centralizing all claims brought throughout the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

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Tylenol Autism and ADHD Lawsuits Dismissed

In December, Judge Cote issued an opinion excluding plaintiffs’ expert witnesses from testifying, after determining the scientific approaches and studies used were not sound enough to allow the opinions to be presented to a jury.

The move has been seen as spelling the end of the Tylenol litigation in the federal court system, since it left plaintiffs without required expert testimony to prove Tylenol caused developmental disorders when women took the painkiller during pregnancy.

After the decision, plaintiffs were given time to show cause why no summary judgment should be issued dismissing their cases.

On February 21, after the time for show cause filings ended, Judge Cote issued a final judgment (PDF) dismissing about 500 member cases, listed in the order.

Judge Cote notes that plaintiffs have not objected to the list’s accuracy or completeness. It is expected that the plaintiffs will challenge the ruling on appeal, and there continue to be some outstanding issues about the applicability of the order to claims that are filed in the future. In addition, the ruling by Judge Cote, which applied federal standards on the admissibility of expert witness testimony, will not have any direct impact on Tylenol lawsuits being filed in state courts.

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