U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York recently took significant action in the new Acetaminophen ASD/ADHD Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). She denied a defendant Walmart’s Motion to Dismiss on preemption grounds.
Judge Cote ruled that the motion was not applicable in this case since U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling laws did not prevent Walmart from adding warnings to its Equate brand of acetaminophen. Her ruling generated new optimism for plaintiffs in this growing MDL.
In September 2021, Nature Reviews Endocrinology published a Consensus Statement recognizing a potential link between prenatal use of acetaminophen and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This action prompted a handful of lawsuits from women who took acetaminophen while pregnant and whose children were later diagnosed with ASD or ADHD. The lawsuits blame manufacturers of acetaminophen for not warning of neurodevelopmental risks to infants exposed to the painkiller in utero.
In June 2022, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion asking the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate acetaminophen lawsuits into a new MDL. As awareness of acetaminophen risks increased, so did the lawsuits. By the summer of 2022, the number of acetaminophen autism/ADHD lawsuits in federal courts across the country had jumped significantly.
In October 2022, the JMPL granted the motion to consolidate the cases, officially establishing the Acetaminophen – ASD/ADHD MDL. The panel assigned the MDL to Judge Cote.
One month later, on Nov. 14, 2022, Judge Cote made one of her first actions in the MDL by denying Walmart’s motion to dismiss on preemption grounds. This marked a significant step forward for plaintiffs. By mid-December 2022, Judge Cote had set a series of deadlines for submitting proposed discovery plans and issued an order allowing new cases to be filed directly in the MDL rather than transferred from home districts.
Judge Cote also made appointments to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the MDL, which included Beasley Allen lawyer Roger Smith. He serves as lead counsel for the Science & Expert Committee.
By mid-January 2023, the number of cases pending in the Acetaminophen ASD/ADHD MDL jumped from just 18 in October 2022 to more than 100. That number is expected to increase substantially by year’s end as more people become aware of the link between this common painkiller and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and ADHD.