More Than 100 Tylenol Liver Damage Cases Pending Nationwide

As lawyers involved in the federal Tylenol liver damage cases prepared to meet today with the judge presiding over the consolidated pretrial litigation, a joint statement was submitted that indicates more than 100 cases are now pending in state and federal courts throughout the United States.

Last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established consolidated proceedings for all federal Tylenol lawsuits, ordering the transfer of 27 complaints pending at that time in federal courts throughout the country to U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

All of the claims involve similar claims that users suffered liver damage following Tylenol use, alleging that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide adequate warning about the risk of liver problems from acetaminophen side effects.

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An Initial Conference in the Tylenol MDL is scheduled for today, to address matters relating to pretrial and discovery proceedings.

In a Joint Proposed Agneda (PDF) filed with the court on May 15, lawyers involved in the cases provided an update on the status of the litigation and proposals regarding the organizational structure. According to the statement, the parties have identified at least 80 pending lawsuits in the federal court system which are now part of the MDL or will soon be transferred into the consolidated proceedings. In addition, there are 15 cases pending in New Jersey state court, 4 in California state court, 2 in Pennsylvania state court and 1 pending Texas state court action.

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson filed a request to centralize the Tylenol liver injury lawsuits pending in New Jersey, asking the state Supreme Court to establish similar coordinated proceedings before one state court judge as part of an MCL or Multi-County Litigation.

Disagreement About Planning for Early Tylenol Trials

In the Joint Proposed Agenda, lawyers representing the plaintiffs and defendants submitted their respective positions on a number of pretrial issues, including the status of discovery in pending cases, the proposal of a discovery plan and preparations for a series of “bellwether” trials, among other issues.

Tylenol liver damage lawyers representing plaintiffs in the cases have proposed that shortly after the establishment of the organizational structure in the MDL, the parties should begin the process of creating a pool of cases that will be prepared for early trial dates, with case-specific discovery.

“Bellwether trials would benefit the parties and the Court by providing meaningful information and experience to everyone involved in the litigations,” according to the plaintiffs’ position statement. “‘Bellwether’ or ‘representative’ trials, enhance and accelerate both the MDL process itself and the global resolution. They assist in the maturation of disputes by providing an opportunity for counsel to organize the products of pretrial common discovery, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments and evidence, and understand the risks and costs associated with the litigation.”

While attorneys for Johnson & Johnson acknowledge that they anticipate there will ultimately be bellwether trials in the MDL, the drug maker has suggested that it is premature to discuss the trials at this time or set requirements for Tylenol trial dates until additional information is obtained regarding the individual plaintiffs’ cases.

In complex pharmaceutical litigation, where a large number of product liability lawsuits filed throughout the country are consolidated for pretrial proceedings, scheduling a series of early trial dates are often helpful in allowing the parties to gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. Such bellwether trials are designed to facilitate potential Tylenol settlements or other resolutions for the litigation.

Acetaminophen Overdose Linked to Liver Problems

In the coming months, as lawsuits are filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country on behalf of individuals who suffered Tylenol liver damage, the cases will be transferred into the MDL. It is ultimately expected that thousands of cases will be part of the consolidated proceedings.

The FDA has indicated that acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of liver failure in the U.S., resulting in more than 50,000 emergency room visits, 25,000 hospitalizations and over 450 deaths annually.  In 2002, an FDA advisory committee meeting found that there are between 1,000 and 2,000 acetaminophen-induced liver failures each year.

In recent years, efforts have been ramped up to bring acetaminophen overdose side effects to the public’s attention and to reduce the amount of liver failure cases linked to the popular analgesic, which is also found in other pain killers and a number of cold medications.

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 in 2011 after the FDA announced new limits on acetaminophen levels in prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet. But over-the-counter painkillers and drugs with acetaminophen went unaffected.


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