Jon Campisi Apr. 4, 2013, 5:20pm

Attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege they suffered liver failure damage or failure

due to their use of over-the-counter Tylenol have succeeded in getting a federal court panel to approve the formation of a multidistrict litigation docket through which the claims will be consolidated and handled.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation this week OK’d the creation of an MDL docket at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia to address the allegations against the makers of the acetaminophen-containing product.

All pending cases will be consolidated under the MDL, which has been titled “Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation,” and will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel, who sits in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The decision follows a hearing late last month in San Diego in which plaintiffs’ lawyers pleaded their case before the panel, arguing that an MDL was appropriate because all of the pending lawsuits share common factual issues concerning the design, manufacture, labeling, marketing, and sale of Tylenol.

In its April 1 transfer order, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation stated that “centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings … and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.”

The panel concluded that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the appropriate transferee district for the litigation, because defendant McNeil Consumer Healthcare is headquartered in the district, and both McNeil-PPC Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, the other codefendants, are both located in nearby New Jersey.

Many of the defendants’ witnesses and documents are likely to be found in or near Philadelphia, the panel continued, and Stengel, who is already overseeing the 21 Tylenol actions that are pending in the Eastern District, is currently not overseeing any other MDL.

“He is an experienced jurist, and we have every confidence that he will steer this litigation on a prudent course,” the panel wrote in its transfer order.

Court records show that there are currently around 27 Tylenol products liability cases pending against the defendants, 21 of which were initiated in Philadelphia.

The judicial panel’s order means the other cases will be transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where Stengel will coordinate and consolidate the actions for pretrial proceedings.

“On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we find that the actions listed … involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” the panel’s transfer order reads.

The order is signed by acting judicial panel chair Kathryn H. Vratil.

The Pennsylvania Record previously reported on the overarching claim in the litigation, which is that the drug companies marketed and sold its over-the-counter Tylenol products in a manner that concealed the margin of risk of liver toxicity and liver failure.

The plaintiffs in many of the actions are being represented by attorneys Arnold Levin, Laurence S. Berman, Fred S. Longer and Michael M. Weinkowitz, of the firm Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman.

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