Tylenol tampering lawsuit gets settled out of court Kin of poison victims to get funds for college.

May 14, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The maker of Tylenol agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit filed by the families of seven people who died after taking cyanide-laced capsules in 1982.

The surprise settlement apparently is the last of the litigation stemming from the case. Because there was no trial, it was not determined whether Johnson & Johnson and the division that manufactures Tylenol, McNeil Consumer Products Co., was negligent for failing to use tamper-resistant packaging.

The case, in which the victims unknowingly ingested Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules laced with fatal doses of potassium cyanide poison, led to federal regulations requiring the use of tamper-resistant packaging of consumer products ranging from medicines to salad dressing.

The seven deaths in the Chicago area were never solved, but publicity surrounding the incident led to hundreds of so-called copycat cases of product tampering elsewhere in the United States.

The exact terms, including dollar amounts of the settlement, were not released and will be sealed by a court order that Cook County Circuit Court Judge Warren Wolfson is expected to issue tomorrow, according to attorneys Leonard Ring and Philip Corboy, who represented the plaintiffs.

Corboy did say, however, that compensation will include a provision for the college educations of the eight children whose parents died in the poisonings.

Jeffrey Leebaw, a spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, said the company is pleased with the settlement.

"While there is no way that we could have anticipated a criminal tampering with our product or prevented it, we wanted to do something for these families and finally put this tragic event behind us," Leebaw said, adding that the company still denies any liability in the poisonings.

One product liability expert speculated yesterday that lawyers for Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Consumer Products Co. decided the possible risks to the companies' reputations from an unfavorable verdict were greater than the dollar costs of a settlement.

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