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Tylenol Case Remanded to CA, While Plaintiffs Seek MDL

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According to a recent Harris Martin article, a California judge has agreed with plaintiffs in a Tylenol wrongful death lawsuit to remand the case back to state court. Plaintiffs will now continue with their claims against Tylenol manufacturer McNeil-PPC Inc., parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and McKesson Corp.

The defendants had removed the case to federal court in the Eastern District of California, citing fraudulent joinder for McKesson Corp., which is a resident of the state. Judge Stanley A. Boone disagreed, finding McKesson was not fraudulently joined.

Acetaminophen Acute Liver Failure

In 2009, the FDA required labeling changes for all over-the-counter products containing acetaminophen, the pain reliever in Tylenol. The new warnings alerted consumers of the potential for liver toxicity when exceeding the recommended daily dosage.

In January 2011, the FDA took safety a step further by asking manufacturers of combination products to limit the amount of acetaminophen to no more than 325 mg per tablet, while an FDA advisory panel suggested that same year a reduction of the maximum daily dosage from 4,000 mg a day to 3,250 mg a day.

These safety steps were made in an attempt to save more consumers from liver problems related to acetaminophen. A study published in Hepatology, for instance, indicated that between 1998 and 2003, acetaminophen acute liver failure rose from 28 to 51 percent, with nearly half of those cases resulting from unintentional overdoses.

Plaintiffs who have filed Tylenol lawsuits claim that the manufacturers should have done more to adequately warn consumers and doctors of the dangers, and should have lowered daily dose limits before the FDA required them to do so.

Plaintiffs Petition for Tylenol MDL

On January 17, 2013, plaintiffs who allegedly suffered Tylenol-related liver failure petitioned the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all federal Tylenol lawsuits in one court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in Pennsylvania, so the location would prove convenient. Consolidation increases efficiency of pre-trial proceedings and reduces the risk of inconsistent rulings.

Johnson & Johnson announced on February 8, 2013, that they opposed consolidation, arguing it is not warranted or justified, and that the cases are too different to benefit from centralization. The company maintains that their warnings are adequate.

McKesson May be Held Liable

California resident Theresa Oliver and Texas resident Bruce Anderson filed claims against McNeil, J&J, and McKesson, alleging that their decedents suffered from liver failure as a result of Tylenol ingestion. Other plaintiffs have included McKesson in their claims against drug companies, claiming the distribution company is liable for failing to provide adequate warnings about the health risks.

Defendants argued that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim against McKesson. Judge Boone disagreed, noting that in California, all participants in the chain of distribution can be strictly liable for injuries caused by a defective product.