Tylenol is the brand name of a medication marketed for pain relief, reducing fever, and relieving symptoms of headaches, colds, coughs, allergies, and influenza. The active component in Tylenol is paracetamol which is also known as acetaminophen. Paracetamol is an analgesic (a group of drugs used for pain relief) and antipyretic (a material that reduces fever).
As a brand name, Tylenol is owned by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of the Johnson & Johnson Company. The brand was introduced in 1955 by the McNeil brothers, and to avoid competition with Aspirin, they marketed the drug as a fever medicine for children. As stated by Wikipedia, the brothers adopted Tylenol from the drug’s chemical compound N-acetyl-para-aminophenol. After a year, the Johnson & Johnson company bought McNeil Laboratories in 1959 and made Tylenol an over-the-counter drug.
With a wide range of Tylenol products for children and adults, it is safe to assume that a significant percentage of people worldwide have taken Tylenol at least once. Like all other drugs, Tylenol has its side effects which have resulted in serious health complications for some users, like organ failure and even death. Tylenol’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, has been slapped with numerous lawsuits. These are ten of the most significant lawsuits in history.
10. Bindom et al. v. McNeil-PPC, Inc. et al. (Tylenol caused Stevens-Johnson syndrome)
Jasmin Bindom filed a personal injury lawsuit against McNeil Consumer Healthcare after developing a rare condition. She claimed that she got stevens-johnson syndrome after taking Tylenol and Motrin. According to the case files, Jasmin suddenly became critically ill at the end of her junior year and spent weeks unconscious at the Baton Rouge burn unit. After a few tests, the doctors diagnosed Jasmin with a rare condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Steven-Johnson’s syndrome is a rare disease that can be fatal and is caused by a reaction to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, causing hair loss and nail loss and making skin cells die.
In the suit, Jasmin claimed to have undergone numerous surgeries on the eyes, private parts, and skin, that there would be many more in the future, and that the damages were irreversible. The plaintiff sought $56 Million in damages. Before jurors could decide on the case, Jasmin’s lawyers announced that they had reached an amicable settlement with McNeil Consumers Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. The settlement was private, and the parties never revealed details to the public.
9. Thompson v. McNeil-PPC, Inc. et al. (personal Injury lawsuit for liver damage)
In 2012, Charlotte Lee Thompson filed a product liability lawsuit against McNeil and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson. She sued the companies after suffering liver failure from Tylenol. In the lawsuit, Charlotte claimed to have developed complications with her liver after purchasing and taking Tylenol in February 2008. She insisted that she had taken Tylenol in the recommended dosage and its recommended intervals. Charlotte was rushed to the emergency care unit of the Shands Jacksonville Hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute liver damage and stayed at the hospital for a couple of weeks.
The lawsuit alleged that Tylenol brought about Charlotte’s liver damage. As stated in the case file, the lawsuit accused the Johnson and Johnson company of negligence and wrongful conduct in the development, manufacture, testing, packaging, marketing, labeling, distribution and sale of their pain relief medicine, Tylenol. Charlotte claimed that Tylenol did not come with adequate warnings for consumers to understand that the medication had risks causing liver damage as required by law.
The suit sought recovery of damages and relief brought about by the negligence and wrongful conduct of the companies. Charlotte sought compensatory damages for her economic losses, medical expenses, and emotional injuries. The lawsuit also called for punitive damages against the companies.
8. Kathleen Gauthier v. Johnson and Johnson Inc. (Side effects of Tylenol class action lawsuit)
In 2020, Kathleen Gauthier filed a lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson for undisclosed Tylenol side effects in Canada. Kathleen filed the lawsuit stating that Johnson and Johnson had continuously violated its duties under the consumer protection act by withholding information and failing to disclose and warn people of some of the dangerous side effects of Tylenol.
Ms. Gauthier accused the company of concealing potential risk factors associated with Tylenol, like liver damage and the risk of death. According to the lawsuit, Kathleen said she would not have used Tylenol on herself or her kids if she had known about these risks. Although Kathleen did not allege that she or her kids suffered from the use of Tylenol, she accused Johnson and Johnson of concealing these risks to protect its market share.
According to the class action, Johnson and Johnson included the risks of Tylenol in their packaging in America but did not do the same for the same product in Canada. The lawsuit included a list of 12 Tylenol products for kids and 19 products for adults. According to CTV news, the plaintiffs seek $10 Million in damages.
7. Terry v. McNeil-PPC, Inc. (Personal injury class action suit for liver damage)
Rana Terry filed a lawsuit against McNeil consumer healthcare and Johnson and Johnson in 2012. Terry alleged that her sister, Denise Hayes, died from acute liver failure after ingesting Tylenol and Tylenol extra strength. The lawsuit states that Ms. Hayes was taken to Helen Keller Hospital in critical condition. She was diagnosed with extensive liver damage and was transferred to another hospital, where she passed on eight days later.
The lawsuit claimed that before she died, Ms. Hayes took Tylenol at the appropriate times and the recommended dosage. The case, which was transferred to a federal court in Pennsylvania, was one of many lawsuits against McNeil for liver damage. They were consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL), and the Terry v. McNeil case became the first bellwether case of the trial. Bellwether trials are test trials that produce representative verdicts and settlements and gauge the strength of cases in the MDL.
Ms. Terry accused McNeil and its parent company of failing to test and give appropriate warnings on the side effects that Tylenol can have. She accused the companies of concealing the medication’s safety issues, duping physicians into recommending Tylenol to patients. According to Drug Watch, Johnson and Johnson agreed to settle the lawsuit together with 200 other liver damage lawsuits in the MDL. The settlement was private, and the parties did not disclose details on the amount to the public.
6. The 1982 Chicago deaths from Cyanide Laced Tylenol products
In 1982, eight people died after taking Tylenol, which was laced with cyanide, in Chicago. Among the victims were a 12-year-old girl, a 35-year-old female flight attendant, and two brothers in their twenties. Further investigations led the authorities to believe the drugs had been tampered with while at the store and not during manufacturing. However, at the time, people could tamper with the packaging for Tylenol easily. In 1983, their families filed a lawsuit against the Johnson and Johnson company for negligence.
They claimed that the companies should have known that their packaging could be tampered with and provided adequate warning to consumers of that risk. The lawsuit also led to significant changes in packaging as the companies introduced tamper-resistant packages. After the death of the eight victims, Johnson and Johnson recalled more than 22 million Tylenol capsules. As stated in the Chicago Tribune, In 1991, Johnson and Johnson settled just before the trial began. However, the settlement details were private, and the parties did not reveal the amount each family received.
5. Dunson v. McNeil-PPC, Inc. (Infant Death from Tylenol) – $5 Million
In 2006, a 1-year-old died after taking the infant’s Tylenol. A few years later, his parents filed a lawsuit against the Tylenol drug maker McNeil and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson. In the lawsuit, the parents of the late toddler alleged that they had given their child a dose of the infant Tylenol for three days after developing a minor fever. Sadly, the 1-year-old died from acetaminophen toxicity.
The lawsuit accused Johnson and Johnson of not giving consumers enough warning about the risks involved in the drug. The labeling of the medication did not include side effects of Tylenol with a possibility of liver failure and that they had no way of knowing that it could happen to the toddler. The toddler’s autopsy reports revealed that his liver contained three times the amount of normal liver enzymes. According to Law.com, Johnson and Johnson were ordered to pay the parents of the child a $5 million settlement as compensation. However, in 2010, Johnson and Johnson recalled several Tylenol medicines for children for an excessive amount of acetaminophen in the recalled products.
4. Rony Elkies et al. v. Johnson and Johnson Inc. (Deceitful packaging of Infant Tylenol) – $6.3 Million
In 2017, Rony Elkies filed a lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson for deceiving consumers by packaging its infant’s Tylenol as a unique formula for babies. The lawsuit claimed that Johnson and Johnson had marketed the product to parents by including pictures of a woman holding a baby and including the word “infants,” which led the consumers to believe that that particular medication was specially formulated for infants and had different ingredients or different measurements from children’s Tylenol.
The plaintiffs said these were false representations and that infants Tylenol had liquid acetaminophen in the same concentration as Children’s Tylenol. These misrepresentations caused customers to overpay for infant Tylenol, precisely the same as children’s Tylenol. However, the lawsuit later became a class action as more consumers joined. According to Top Class Actions, Johnson and Johnson agreed to settle the claims for $6.3 Million. The settlement benefitted people who bought infant Tylenol between October 2014 and January 2020. Class members that couldn’t provide proof of purchase were entitled to $15.05.
3. Anthony Benedi v. McNeil-PPC, Inc. (Liver damage lawsuit) – $8.8 Million
In 1994, a jury awarded Antony Benedi a total of $8.8 Million in damages against McNeil and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson. Antony Benedi had filed a personal injury lawsuit against McNeil after he suffered liver failure from Tylenol. However, in the lawsuit, Benedi alleged that his liver had been destroyed by a severe reaction to Tylenol and alcohol. Benedi claimed that he was in good health until one fateful night in 1993 when he had ingested Tylenol to treat the flu he had developed.
He was enjoys drinking wine after dinner while taking Tylenol. He had taken the recommended dosages for a few days before he passed out and slipped into a coma. After waking up in the hospital, the doctors informed him that he had suffered from liver failure and had had a liver transplant. President Bush’s former assistant claimed that he had incurred medical expenses of over $350,000 and had to take anti-rejection medication that cost upwards of $2000 a month.
Benedi and his lawyers claimed that Johnson and Johnson knew the risks involved if consumers mixed Tylenol with alcohol and that they did not include the warning on the product labels. They accused the company of negligence and gross misconduct, which endangered the lives of its consumers. According to Washington Post, the jury awarded Antony Benedi $7.85 Million in compensatory damages and $1 Million in punitive damages.
2. Metal contaminated Tylenol Lawsuit – $25 Million
In 2010, there was a massive recall by McNeil Consumer Healthcare for Infants Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, and Children’s Tylenol drugs. However, the recall was after numerous complaints that some of these children’s pain medication contained black specks. Investigators discovered that the complaints started in 2009 from the McNeil plant in Fort Washington, but the companies ignored them instead of investigating the complaint. Further investigation reveals the black specks are nickel/chromium-rich inclusions that were not part of the ingredients in either of the medicines.
According to FiercePharma, in 2015, the company pleaded to a federal misdemeanor charge. The company now pays a criminal fine of $20 Million and another $5 Million as forfeiture for allowing medication contaminated with metals into the market.
1. Misrepresentation of Tylenol and Violation of Consumer Protection Laws – $33 Million
In 2017, Johnson and Johnson agreed to a $33 Million settlement with the District of Columbia and 42 other states. This is because they charged the company with violating consumer protection laws. The lawsuit accused Johnson and Johnson of violating these laws by misrepresenting the quality of Tylenol, Motrin, and other OTC drugs by making false and misleading representations about the drugs and selling some of them even though they didn’t meet regulatory standards. As stated by the Office of the Attorney General, the $33 Million settlement would be shared among the 42 states and as part of the settlement, McNeil would stop advertising its manufacturing practices as those meeting FDA standards.