Recent scientific studies have found that using Tylenol (or generic acetaminophen) during pregnancy disrupts fetal development and may increase the risk of having a baby with autism. This new research has sparked a growing wave of product liability lawsuits by parents of children born with autism after acetaminophen use during pregnancy.
Since the Tylenol autism lawsuits were consolidated into a class action MDL last year, MDL Judge Denise Cote has progressed the litigation forward at a very rapid pace. As of September 2023, the initial round of Daubert briefs challenging the expert witnesses on both sides have been submitted. The outcome of the Daubert challenges will determine the future of this litigation. If Judge Cote rules that the opinions of the plaintiffs’ experts are not admissible, it will effectively end the MDL. If, however, she denies the motions to exclude the plaintiffs’ experts, we could actually see a major global settlement next year.
In this post, our lawyers estimate what the possible settlement amounts of a Tylenol autism lawsuit might be.
Tylenol During Pregnancy May Cause Autism
As anyone reading this knows, Tylenol is the iconic brand name for acetaminophen. Tylenol is the most popular and widely used drug in the U.S. Millions of adults take it regularly to treat various aches and pains. Almost a quarter of the U.S. population report using Tylenol or acetaminophen weekly.
Tylenol has been around for over 50 years and is generally considered harmless. Despite its widespread use and reputation for safety, acetaminophen is actually a mystery in the world of pharmacology. Exactly how the drug relieves pain, headaches and fever is not entirely understood. We just know that it works.
Tylenol and other generic acetaminophen products have always been marketed to pregnant women as the only safe option for over-the-counter pain relief during pregnancy. In response, Tylenol is the most used form of pain relief during pregnancy.
The blind belief in the safety of Tylenol use during pregnancy effectively ended in September 2021 with the publication of a new medical research article. A Consensus Statement in Nature Reviews Endocrinology was published by a coalition of 91 leading medical experts. This article’s purpose was to alarm the public and medical community that acetaminophen use during pregnancy can increase the risk of autism.
The article outlined a large body of epidemiological research and animal testing consistently showing that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen can disrupt fetal development and increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. The research cited in the article included 29 observational studies with over 220,000 mother-child pairs.
Class Action Tylenol Autism Lawsuit
The Consensus Statement steadily began to change the general perception of the risks of Tylenol during pregnancy and alerted the public about the link between Tylenol and autism. This eventually led to a growing volume of Tylenol autism lawsuits filed by parents across the country.
These lawsuits are being filed by mothers who regularly used Tylenol or acetaminophen while pregnant and had babies later diagnosed with autism. The acetaminophen autism lawsuits began filing in large numbers in the Spring of 2021. Within a year, there were enough cases for the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate the federal court cases into a “class action” MDL (In re: Acetaminophen ASD/ADHD Prod. Liab. Lit., MDL No. 3043).
Estimated Individual Settlement Payouts for a Tylenol Autism Lawsuit
Nobody knows for sure what the potential value of Tylenol autism lawsuits might be at this point. These cases are relatively new, and we don’t know whether the scientific evidence on causation will survive legal challenges to admissibility. Several other variables and unknowns make estimating the settlement value of acetaminophen autism cases comparable to predicting who will win the Super Bowl in 3 years.
If we make some assumptions about the success of these cases moving forward, however, we can offer a reasonable settlement valuation. Our lawyers estimate that a successful Tylenol lawsuit could have a potential value range of $500,000 to $2,000,000. Certain cases with compelling facts or circumstances could have a much higher value.
It is important to keep some things in mind about this value estimate. First, when we say the potential settlement value of these cases is $500,000 to $2,000,000, we are basing that on the value that cases would have if they were brought as separate tort cases, rather than part of a mass tort. Whenever you have a large number of product liability cases consolidated into a class action MDL as we have here, the payouts that individual plaintiffs receive in a global settlement are always significantly less than the settlement amount the case would get if it were brought separately, and not part of an MDL. If we get a global settlement in this MDL, the payout will be lower than the full settlement value.
Another thing to understand is that these estimates of the value of the case in a settlement, not what we think this case would be worth if they went to trial. If a Tylenol autism case went to trial, the verdict would likely be much more than $2,000,000.
What Will Impact the Settlement Amounts for Tylenol Autism Lawsuits?
At this stage, whether the Tylenol autism cases have any settlement value at all will depend mainly on the outcome of the upcoming legal battle over the admissibility of the scientific evidence on causation. The Consensus Statement published in October 2021 lists many studies establishing the connection between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and higher rates of autism. The defendants will challenge whether this evidence is admissible based on strict legal standards. The Tylenol autism cases will either sink or swim based on the outcome of this issue.
In September 2023, the first round of Daubert motions were filed by both the plaintiffs and the defendants. A summary of the arguments in those motions can be found in our recent posts: Defense Challenges to Plaintiffs’ Experts and Plaintiffs Challenges to Defense Experts .
Assuming that the causation evidence is admissible, there will be three primary factors that will impact the settlement value of individual Tylenol autism lawsuits: (1) the severity of the child’s autism, (2) the level of acetaminophen use, and (3) the presence or absence of autism risk factors.
Severity of Autism
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition that comes in a wide range of levels. Some people with autism or ASD are high functioning and require little care or assistance, while others with severe autism cannot function on their own at all. Children born with severe autism often require life-long care, which can dramatically increase the potential settlement value of a case.
Tylenol autism cases in which the child has severe autism could have a settlement value comparable to cases involving birth injuries such as cerebral palsy. These are very high-value cases because cerebral palsy can result in permanent disability and lifelong medical care requirements.
Tylenol cases involving severely autistic children should be at the highest end of the settlement value range, and even beyond it. Plaintiffs in these cases will be able to present life care plans which can dramatically increase the level of economic damages they can claim.
Extent of Tylenol Use
The other factor that will drive the potential settlement value of individual Tylenol autism cases will be how much acetaminophen the mother used during pregnancy. The medical studies suggest that the causal relationship between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and high autism rates directly correlates to the dose and frequency of acetaminophen usage. In other words, more Tylenol during pregnancy means a higher risk of autism.
A mother who used very high doses of Tylenol (or generic acetaminophen products) frequently throughout her pregnancy will have a much stronger case on causation compared to a mother who only used Tylenol occasionally or at lower doses during pregnancy. Stronger cases involving high-dose, high-frequency Tylenol use will have a much higher settlement value because it is much easier for a jury to connect Tylenol use and autism. By contrast, juries will likely be skeptical of cases in which the mother used what would be considered normal levels of acetaminophen during pregnancy.
Another aspect of this will be the extent to which the mother can reliably prove the extent of her Tylenol use during pregnancy. In most cases, the extent to which Tylenol was used during pregnancy will be based entirely on the mother’s testimony (and possibly the father or other family members). If the mother has additional documentary proof of her Tylenol use, it will strengthen the case. Examples of this would be notes in the mother’s medical charts about how much Tylenol she was using or receipts showing the frequent purchase of Tylenol during the pregnancy.
Lack of Other Autism Risk Factors
A third factor that could push up the potential settlement value of a Tylenol autism case is the absence of any risk factors that could have been alternative causes for the child’s autism. Risk factors for autism include both pregnancy complications and genetic predisposition.
For example, if the mother had pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or hypertension (preeclampsia), these are known to be risk factors for autism. If the child was born prematurely (before 26 weeks) or suffered oxygen deprivation during difficult labor and delivery, these would also be significant risk factors for autism. Genetic history of autism in the family (e.g., mother, father, or siblings diagnosed with ASD) or older parents (mother over 40, father over 45) are also associated with an increased risk of autism.
If the plaintiff in a Tylenol autism lawsuit has one or more of these autism risk factors, it would significantly weaken the case and drive down the potential settlement value. By contrast, the absence of any of these autism risk factors will strengthen the claim that the child’s autism was caused by Tylenol use during pregnancy and push the case’s value upward.
How to Get a Tylenol Autism Lawsuit Settlement
Our acetaminophen lawyers at Miller & Zois are reviewing Tylenol autism lawsuits on behalf of families who have a child diagnosed with autism or ADHD after significant prenatal exposure to either Tylenol or generic acetaminophen.
Call our Tylenol autism attorneys today at 800-553-8082 or get a no-obligation, free online consultation.