Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania Tylenol product liability case moves forward

Drug manufacturers don't need a government order to announce voluntarily recalls of flawed products. However, companies are expected to keep the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the public informed about discoveries of defects. Some drug makers may try to preserve profits by hiding or delaying the revelation of defective product information.

Action was taken recently on a 2012 fatal product liability case filed in Pennsylvania, home to the manufacturers of Infants' Tylenol. An out-of-state couple charged several companies and executives in the pediatric drug's distribution chain with the death of the couple's newborn. The baby died in 2009, after the mother administered doses of Infants' Tylenol as directed by a physician.

The 2-week-old started vomiting blood the day after he was given the first dose of the nonprescription drug. The baby died of acute liver failure a few days later. Three defendants -- McNeil-PPC Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Wal-Mart - now remain in the lawsuit.

A federal judge determined the wrongful death case could advance, despite claims by defendants the plaintiffs' exceeded statute of limitation filing deadlines. The parents filed the claim more than three years after the infant's death. The judge said the defendants' argument could not be resolved until the discovery phase is complete.

The parents stated they didn't know Infants' Tylenol was dangerous until 2010, when Congress probed Johnson & Johnson drug manufacturing practices. Federal investigators accused the drug maker of hiding Tylenol defects, including harmful effects on children, by employing a "phantom" recall.

The defendants allegedly employed unqualified contract lab workers and failed to notify the public of known drug defects. Deceptive trade practices is among several allegations in the claim, which seeks punitive damages.

Laws dictate how long plaintiffs have to file product liability wrongful death lawsuits. Filing times are based on the date of death, unless proof of wrongful death is not uncovered until sometime later.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Horrifying Claims Over Baby's Death Advanced" Rose Bouboushian, Jun. 20, 2014

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