Legal Milestone: Court Approves Short-Form Complaint in Tylenol Autism Litigation

Families looking to take legal action against distributors and manufacturers of acetaminophen-based pain medications gained a small victory on Jan. 11, 2023, when a U.S. District Judge approved a short-form complaint. This complaint allows families to submit ADHD and Tylenol autism-related lawsuits in the federal multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) Court, which will help the parties involved evaluate each individual claim. Judge Denise Cote made the decision because more families are seeking to file lawsuits, saying that the active ingredient found in Tylenol resulted in ADHD or autism in their children and that the drug maker or distributor failed to warn or adequately disclose the potential pregnancy dangers.

History of acetaminophen-based medications and pregnancy lawsuits

For many years, pregnant women used Tylenol, along with other acetaminophen-based medications, believing that they were safe. Now, however, some families allege that there is an active ingredient in these drugs that causes autism and ADHD and that the drug makers knew of this risk but didn’t adequately inform pregnant women. Back in November 2022, the Court established a federal MDL, creating a centralized location for all of these Tylenol autism lawsuits. Since these claims raise almost identical factual allegations, the Court decided to include them all in one MDL.

Managing similar cases

As of now, many of the current complaints are against drug retailers, such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. This stems from the retailers selling these drugs without pregnancy warnings. It’s expected that several thousand lawsuits will also be filed against Johnson & Johnson for its alleged role in the extensive use of acetaminophen-based medications during pregnancy.

The short-form complaint was proposed by lawyers of the existing claimants, as it will allow for a standardized complaint form for potential future litigants.  They can then use this to adopt specific allegations from the master complaint, then provide limited information on a case-by-case basis about acetaminophen-based drugs and any injuries suffered by their children.

Judge Cote was appointed by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to oversee the growing number of cases. She will manage these cases in the Southern District of New York, allowing the different parties to coordinate discovery related to all claims. As part of this process, the Court expects to create what is known as a “bellwether” process, which is a small group of representative claims prepared in advance for earlier trial dates. The parties involved can then assess how these cases performed in front of a jury and decide on further actions needed.

Determining if you have a case

If you believe your child was injured during pregnancy because of Tylenol or another acetaminophen-based medication, you may have a claim. To proceed, you should speak with a lawyer who will assist you in determining whether you qualify to join the MDL.  If you do, the lawyer can then work with you throughout the rest of the process to help ensure you receive the best possible outcome.

While these Court cases can take some time, it’s still important to join as early as possible if you think you are eligible. Doing so will help you avoid any deadlines and give you more insight into the progress of the litigation. Speak with one of our lawyers today to learn more about potentially joining the MDL and beginning the process of filing a short-form complaint.