On October 16, 2015, a jury in New Jersey absolved Johnson and Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare subsidiary from liability to the plaintiff for her liver damage allegedly caused by taking Tylenol (acetaminophen), after a three-week trial. The 55-year-old plaintiff had alleged that the manufacturer of Tylenol had failed to adequately disclose the risks of developing liver damage as a result of taking Extra Strength Tylenol.
The plaintiff told the 10-person jury that she had accidentally taken over-the-counter Extra Strength Tylenol for longer than the recommended period of time that caused her to suffer liver damage. The defendant argued to the jury not only that Tylenol is safe if taken as directed, as proved by many studies over a period of many years, but also told the jury that the plaintiff may have taken over-the-counter cold medicine and Aleve before she was hospitalized in 2011 with elevated liver enzymes, and therefore the plaintiff had failed to prove that she had taken Extra Strength Tylenol.
The plaintiff’s lawyer argued to the jury that studies have shown that as few as two Extra Strength Tylenol pills per day over an extended period of time can cause liver damage, which the defendant knew for years, despite the recommended maximum daily dose of Extra Strength Tylenol being eight pills per day – had the defendant warned the public about the risk of liver damage when taking Extra Strength Tylenol, the plaintiff’s attorney argued that the plaintiff would not have been overdosed with Tylenol and she would not have suffered liver damage as a result.
It appears that the jury’s determination that the plaintiff had failed to prove that she had taken Tylenol would have precluded the jury from considering and determining whether the defendant had failed to provide sufficient warning regarding the risks allegedly associated with taking Tylenol.
What effect the New Jersey jury’s defense verdict will have on the more than 200 other Tylenol lawsuits presently pending in state and federal courts, including the multidistrict litigation in federal court in Pennsylvania, is unknown.
Acetaminophen Is The Leading Cause Of Liver Failure In The United States
Tylenol sales in the United States represent more than $400 million in revenue every year for the defendant. With such a large financial interest in protecting over-the-counter sales of Tylenol at current recommended dosing levels, it is no surprise that the defendant has resisted efforts by the FDA to further regulate acetaminophen, including consideration of making Extra Strength Tylenol available only by prescription and recommending that the maximum dosage of acetaminophen per day be reduced.
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