First Bellwether Case Chosen in Tylenol MDL

Laura Woods | February 6th, 2015


U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel has selected the first federal Tylenol lawsuit for an early bellwether trial date. Judge Stengel is currently presiding over at least 165 federal product liability lawsuits pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

All of the lawsuits accuse Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, McNeil Healthcare, of withholding information from consumers and the medical community for decades regarding the liver damage risk linked to Tylenol.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania multidistrict litigation was established in April 2013, as a way to help both sides conserve resources, avoid conflicting rulings and prevent duplicate discovery.

A group of bellwether cases are being prepared for early trial dates that are expected to begin in late 2016. The outcomes of the bellwether trials will not be binding on the other cases. However, the outcome may help to settle dozens of other cases, so they’re not remanded to the courts they were originally filed in across the country and forced to have individual trials.

First bellwether case selected

On December 15, Judge Stengel issued an order identifying the family of Denice Hayes as the first bellwether case to go to trial. Both parties were instructed to submit a proposed pretrial schedule by January 6.

Hayes’s sister, Rana Terry, filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant and serves as the administrator of the estate. The case was originally filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2012, but was centralized as part of the MDL.

The lawsuit claims that Hayes developed acute liver failure as a result of ingesting Extra Strength Tylenol from August 12, 2010 to August 29, 2010. Each tablet of the over-the-counter drug contains 500mg of acetaminophen — the generic name of a drug found in many common brand name over-the-counter and prescription products. Hayes passed away from her liver injury on August 31, 2010.

The lawsuit brings 11 claims against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Consumer Healthcare, including:

  • Designing a Defective Drug
  • Strict Liability
  • Failure to Warn
  • Wrongful Death
  • Fraudulent Concealment
  • Negligence
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Fraud
  • Violating Consumer Protection Laws
  • Breach of Warranty
  • Negligent Misrepresentation

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