Court Approves Short Form Complaint for Lawsuits Alleging Tylenol Caused Autism, ADHD for Children

Plaintiffs will now be able to file Tylenol autism and ADHD lawsuits directly in the federal MDL court, using a standardized form that will help the Court and parties evaluate information about each claim

  • Tylenol and other acetaminophen-based pain medications have been widely used during pregnancy, since they are widely believed to be safe
  • Families allege that drug makers knew there was a risk the active ingredient in Tylenol causes autism and ADHD, but failed to warn pregnant women
  • To help manage the growing litigation, a "Short Form" complaint has been approved by the Court
  • Families will submit an abbreviated complaint, which standardizes information about each claim alleging that children developed ADHD or autism from Tylenol or other acetaminophen drugs

As a growing number of families continue to file lawsuits against manufacturers of acetaminophen-based pain medications, alleging that the active ingredient in Tylenol caused autism or ADHD in children, the U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over the litigation has approved a “Short Form Complaint”, which will streamline the process for bringing new claims over the drug makers’ failure to adequately disclose the pregnancy risks.

A federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) was established in November, centralizing all lawsuits over autism and ADHD caused by Tylenol, Equate and other versions of acetaminophen, since each of the claims raise nearly identical allegations that children may have avoided the diagnosis if warnings have been provided by drug makers and retailers about the risks associated with using the common pain medication while pregnant.

Most of the current complaints involve claims against retailers like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Costco and other companies, who sold their own brands of acetaminophen drugs over the past two decades without pregnancy warnings. However, it is widely expected that the litigation will include several thousand Tylenol autism lawsuits which will be brought against Johnson & Johnson for it’s role in causing the widespread use of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Tylenol Autism Lawsuit

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) appointed Senior U.S. District Judge Denise Cote to oversee the growing litigation, which is being managed out of the Southern District of New York for coordinated discovery into issues that are common to all claims, and it is expected that the Court will establish a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony about the link between Tylenol and autism that will be repeated throughout the claims.

Tylenol Autism, ADHD Lawsuits Short-Form Complaints

Last month, Judge Cote outlined the schedule for establishing a streamlined process that will allow future plaintiffs to directly file their claims in the Tylenol MDL, and coordinate the allegations raised in various complaints.

In complex product liability lawsuits, where large numbers of individuals are pursuing similar claims and allegations, it is common for the Court to approve a Master and Short Form Complaint, where plaintiffs can then file future lawsuits through an abbreviated form, where they adopt relevant allegations.

In an order (PDF) issued on January 9, Judge Cote approved the Short Form Complaint that must be used when filing all future cases, allowing plaintiffs to use an abbreviated form that adopts certain allegations from a Master Complaint and provides limited case-specific information about their use of acetaminophen and the injuries suffered by their children.

Creating a standardized complaint form is intended to help improve the ability of the Court and the parties to gather information about hundreds of cases that are expected to be filed directly in the federal multidistrict litigation over the coming weeks and months. The forms were proposed by plaintiffs in a letter (PDF) filed with the Court earlier this week.

According to the order, any plaintiff who has a case pending currently in the MDL must file a Short Form Complaint by January 20, 2023. Any future case filed must complete a short-form complaint within 14 days of bringing the case, regardless of whether the lawsuit is filed directly with the MDL or if the case is transferred from another district.

January 2023 Tylenol Lawsuit Update

During the first weeks after the federal courts centralized all Tylenol autism and ADHD lawsuits before Judge Cote, dozens of complaints were filed by families nationwide. Given the widespread use of Tylenol and acetaminophen during pregnancy, it is ultimately expected that tens of thousands of claims may be brought over the remainder of 2023.

To help manage the rapidly growing number of lawsuits alleging Tylenol caused autism or ADHD, Judge Cote appointed a group of plaintiffs lawyers to serve in various leadership roles in November 2022, taking certain actions during the MDL proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs pursuing a claim. However, each family will still maintain their own Tylenol lawyer to establish that their child’s diagnosis of ADHD or autism was caused by exposure to specific acetaminophen products used during pregnancy.

As part of a process designed to allow the parties to select a group of representative “bellwether” cases that will be prepared for early trial dates, Judge Cote hasalso called for the parties to conduct a census of all claims being pursued by lawyers, to determine how many filed or pending lawsuits retailers face.

Following the coordinated discovery and any bellwether trials in the Tylenol MDL, if parties fail to negotiate ADHD and autism settlements for families, Judge Cote may then start remanding each individual claim back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial date.


Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations for families of children diagnosed with ADHD or autism after exposure to Tylenol or another acetaminophen drug during pregnancy.



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