N.Y. Tylenol wrongful death claim transferred to MDL in Philadelphia

By Jon Campisi | Apr 11, 2013

A wrongful death claim that had been filed by a New York State widow over her

husband’s death as an alleged result of Tylenol use has been transferred to the newly created multidistrict over-the-counter Tylenol litigation docket in Philadelphia.

Cathleen Murphy filed suit against McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a division of McNeil-PPC and Johnson & Johnson, in December 2010 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the record shows.

In her complaint, Murphy alleges that her husband, Michael Murphy, sustained liver damage that ultimately led to his death as a result of his use of Extra Strength Tylenol.

Michael Murphy, the suit claims, only took the acetaminophen product regularly from April through May 2008.

The suit accuses the defendants of representing to Michael Murphy and the consuming public that Extra Strength Tylenol is safe and poses “no significant health hazard to consumers,” when in fact the pharmaceutical is specifically toxic to the liver.

“Defendants owed a legal duty to Plaintiff’s Decedent to manufacture and sell Extra Strength Tylenol without hidden and/or concealed defects,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants breached such duty which proximately caused Plaintiff’s Decedent damages.”

Michael Murphy, the record shows, died as a result of acute liver failure due to acetaminophen poisoning and toxicity on Jan. 23, 2009.

The complaint alleges that the drug companies did not warn of any potential effects of Tylenol on the liver until 1993, and that at that time, the label only warned consumers who drank three or more alcoholic beverages per day to consult a doctor before taking the drug.

“It did not warn of the risk of hepatic injury in the absence of alcohol intake,” the suit reads. “Subsequent changes in the warnings remained inadequate to inform Plaintiff’s Decedent of the risk of liver injury and death from the use of Extra Strength Tylenol.”

Michael Murphy underwent a liver transplant after sustained liver failure, but he ultimately died as a result of his body’s rejection of the new organ, the suit states.

The lawsuit contains counts of negligence, defective design, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, breach of implied and express warranties, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, wrongful death, and violations of New York’s General Business Law.

Just last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation gave approval for the creation of an MDL docket under which the 27 pending claims would be consolidated and overseen by a federal judge at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

On April 10, the Murphy claim was added to the MDL, which is being handled by U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.

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