Plaintiffs suing Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary McNeil-PPC Inc. in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) claiming the companies’ popular over-the-counter painkiller Tylenol caused liver damage, filed a motion to stop the defendants from testifying that their own family members have taken the medicine. The plaintiffs steering committee (PSC) argued that allowing such testimony would only prejudice juries.
Plaintiffs cited a March 2014 ruling in a different lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson involving the OTC painkiller Motrin and the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome. In that case, a Louisiana federal court granted a plaintiff’s request to ban defense counsel and witnesses from mentioning personal use of Motrin, which contains the drug ingredient ibuprofen.
The first bellwether trial in the Tylenol multidistrict litigation is scheduled for later this year. That lawsuit was filed by Rana Terry, on behalf of her sister, Denice Hayes, who died of acute liver failure after allegedly taking Extra Strength Tylenol. The active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen, which has been linked to liver damage. Terry’s lawsuit claims that the medicine was unreasonably dangerous and the companies failed to adequately warn consumers of this risk.
Johnson & Johnson and McNeil-PPC, both New Jersey companies, had hoped to apply New Jersey laws to Hayes’ case, but U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel ruled that Alabama law applies because Hayes lived in Alabama, bought the medicine in Alabama, and died in Alabama.
Alabama state law allows plaintiffs to seek unlimited damages, whereas New Jersey laws would have minimized the wrongful death and punitive damages claims.
Source: Law 360