Court Approves Short Form Complaint for Tylenol Autism, ADHD Lawsuits as Growing Number of Families Allege Drug Makers Failed to Warn of Pregnancy Risks

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote approved a “short form” complaint for families to file Tylenol autism and ADHD lawsuits directly in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) court. This new form will help the court and parties evaluate information about each claim, as a growing number of families continue to file lawsuits against manufacturers of acetaminophen-based pain medications, alleging that the active ingredient in Tylenol caused autism or ADHD in their children, but the drug makers failed to adequately disclose the pregnancy risks.

Tylenol and other acetaminophen-based pain medications have been widely used during pregnancy, since they are believed to be safe. However, families are now alleging that drug makers knew there was a risk that the active ingredient in Tylenol causes autism and ADHD, but failed to warn pregnant women. In November, a federal MDL was established to centralize all lawsuits over autism and ADHD caused by Tylenol, Equate and other versions of acetaminophen, as each claim raises nearly identical allegations that children may have avoided the diagnosis if warnings had been provided by drug makers and retailers about the risks associated with using the common pain medication while pregnant.

Most of the current complaints involve claims against retailers like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Costco and other companies, who sold their own brands of acetaminophen drugs over the past two decades without pregnancy warnings. However, it is widely expected that the litigation will include several thousand Tylenol autism lawsuits which will be brought against Johnson & Johnson for its role in causing the widespread use of acetaminophen during pregnancy. Lead counsel for the plaintiffs are Keller Postman.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) appointed Judge Cote to oversee the growing litigation, which is being managed out of the Southern District of New York, for coordinated discovery into issues that are common to all claims. The court expects to establish a “bellwether” process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony about the link between Tylenol and autism.

The forms were proposed by the plaintiffs to provide a standardized complaint form, that is intended to adopt certain allegations from a Master Complaint and provide limited case-specific information about their use of acetaminophen and the injuries suffered by their children.