Tylenol autism lawsuits have recently been consolidated into a class action multi district litigation court, or an MDL. Tylenol autism litigation has been rolled out in the last couple of years as scientific evidence has indicated a link between acetaminophen use and the development of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to the CDC: “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain.”
People with ASD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that differ from most people. Usually, they don’t look any different from most other people. The abilities of those diagnosed with ASD can widely vary. Some with ASD may even have advanced conversation skills, while others may be completely nonverbal. Some people with ASD need lots of help in their daily lives; others can work and live with little to no support.
ASD begins before age 3 and can last a lifetime, though some symptoms may eventually improve. ASD symptoms may show in the first year, or they may not manifest for two years or more. Some with ASD gain new skills and meet their developmental milestones until around 18 to 24 months. They might then cease gaining new skills or even lose skills they once enjoyed.
As ASD-stricken children become adolescents and young adults, they may have problems developing, maintaining friendships, communicating, understanding behaviors expected of them. They may suffer from anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – all of which they suffer more often than those without ASD.
Tylenol in Pregnancy linked with Autism
Tylenol is the most famous brand name for acetaminophen, which is one of the world’s most commonly used medications. Before autism hit the public radar in the last few decades, acetaminophen was generally thought of as a safe over-the-counter drug, despite it’s being the pharmaceutical most commonly linked with liver failure. Millions use Tylenol daily, including many pregnant women who see it as a safe choice for pregnancy pain or discomfort.
In the last decade, however, scientific research has shown that pregnant women who regularly take acetaminophen can disrupt their baby’s development and increase the risk of neurological symptoms that include autism.
Concerns among the scientific community reached public awareness with the publication of a Consensus Statement. The statement came as a warning from several doctors about the risks of using acetaminophen in pregnancy.
Research triggers Tylenol Autism Litigation
That 2021 Consensus Statement publication gave medical credence to the idea that autism could be linked to prenatal acetaminophen exposure. This revelation prompted parents to file the first product liability lawsuits which allege their children developed autism because their mothers took Tylenol while pregnant.
Tylenol autism lawsuit filings slowly mounted in 2021, though only a limited number had been filed by the year’s end. In the first half of 2022, however, several more cases were filed, as awareness of the Tylenol-autism link increased throughout the United States.
Tylenol Autism Class Action Lawsuit Created
In the summer of 2022, so many cases had been filed in federal courts nationwide that a group of plaintiffs decided to file a motion requesting that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidate all of the Tylenol autism cases into a new “class action” MDL.
The JPML granted the motion in October 2022, establishing the new Tylenol autism class action MDL — In Re: Acetaminophen – ASD/ADHD MDL No. 3043. The MDL for the acetaminophen cases was assigned to Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York.
Walmart’s Motion to Dismiss Denied
One of Judge Cote’s first rulings in the new class action MDL was to deny a motion by Walmart to dismiss the cases. Walmart had argued a preemption defense, which claimed the Tylenol autism lawsuit defendants were protected from tort suits as a result of the federal preemption doctrine. It is a common ploy of defendants in drug cases, but it didn’t work for the discount giant.
Equate Brand was free to add a warning
A preemption defense did not apply in this case of Walmart’s Equate brand acetaminophen, Judge Cote ruled, because the FDA labeling laws did not prevent Walmart from voluntarily adding a warning about acetaminophen use in pregnancy. The judge noted that under FDA rules, manufacturers must still update their warning labels to ensure their adequacy.
Judge Cote’s ruling in the Walmart case gave plaintiffs renewed hope for taking these cases to the courts for a fair and impartial presentation to juries.
MDL Judge Cote sets efficient Pace
It became clear late last year that MDL Judge Denise Cote would move the litigation along in a timely manner. After she appointed lawyers to the plaintiffs’ executive committee, the judge set a series of reasonably prompt deadlines for submitting proposed discovery plans. That should get things moving along smoothly in 2023.
Class Action Growing
A mere 18 cases had been filed when the acetaminophen autism class action was created in October 2022. Just three months later, 104 cases were pending in the Tylenol autism MDL. That number is expected to increase by several hundred toward the end of 2023.
Judge Cote has already taken two steps to facilitate filing new cases in the MDL.
- She issued an Order that allows new incoming Tylenol autism cases to be filed directly in the MDL rather than being filed in home districts and transferred into the MDL.
- She approved a Short Form Complaint, putting scaffolding in place for this litigation to grow.