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Corboy & Demetrio Files Lawsuits for Families in the Tylenol Packaging Cases

The law firm of Corboy & Demetrio today filed two Multi-Million dollar lawsuits in the Circuit Court of Cook County, against the manufacturers, distributors and a seller of Tylenol.  The lawsuits arise out of the death of a twelve year old child and a mother of two who both died after taking Tylenol capsules last September. Each of the deaths occurred during that time when five others in the Chicago area died after the use of Tylenol.

John F. Eliason, 64, of Elmhurst, father of Mary Sue McFarland and administrator of her estate, filed suit as a result of her death against McNeil Consumer Products Co., a division of McNeilab, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc.  The suit charged that McNeil and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc., manufactured and distributed the pain reliever that Mrs. Mary Sue McFarland ingested shortly before her death. Mrs. McFarland, 31, was the divorced wife of Warren McFarland, 34, of Elmhurst, Illinois, and the mother of Ryan McFarland, age 5 and Bradley McFarland, age 3.

McFarland’s death, which occurred on September 30, 1982, was caused by cyanide poisoning.  The suit claims that the aspirin-free pain reliever known as “Extra Strength Tylenol” contained lethal amounts of cyanide which were present in the bottle at the time it was purchased by her.

Dennis M. Kellerman, 34, of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, the father of Mary Ann Kellerman, 12, of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, filed suit against McNeil Consumer Products Co., a division of McNeilab, Inc., Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc., and The Jewel Companies.  In his suit on behalf of Mary Ann, his only child, who died on September 29, 1982, Kellerman claimed that his wife, Jeanna M. Kellerman, mother of the young girl, purchased the aspirin-free pain reliever on September 28, 1982 at the Jewel Food Store, 948 Grove Mall, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and that as a result of ingesting that pain reliever, Mary Ann sustained injuries which resulted in her death.  It was also charged that at the time the aspiring-free pain reliever was manufactured, distributed and sold it contained a lethal amount of cyanide.

Philip H. Corboy, one of the attorneys for both of the families, charged in both suits that the Tylenol capsules were in an unreasonably dangerous condition in that the pain relievers were invented, developed, manufactured, distributed, marketed and sold with a lethal amount of cyanide contained in the capsules.

Corboy said:

“The law is quite clear that if a product is sold in a contaminated condition, the retailer is liable.  Obviously when these capsules were purchased, the product was in an unreasonably dangerous condition because of the cyanide in the capsules.  Whether the capsules were cyanide-free when they were placed in the stream of commerce by the manufacturer and distributor, McNeil Consumer Products Co., and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc., will be a question of fact to be resolved by pre-trial discovery of evidence.  However, there seems to be absolutely no doubt that the product was in an unreasonably dangerous condition when it was delivered to the families of the users.”

There is no mention in the suits filed about the way in which the Tylenol was packaged.  “At this time,” Corboy said, “we do not believe it necessary to charge improper packaging.  The capsules were cyanide laden and that these tragedies resulted from that condition is certainly sufficient to satisfy the legal requirements of these suits.”

There is nothing in either of these suits which refers to the intervention of any outside source that could have been responsible for placing cyanide in the Tylenol.  Corboy claimed that the status of the facts at the present time is that the product was dangerous when sold and that the dangerous condition caused the deaths of the users of the cyanide infested aspirin-free pain relievers.

Just before Chicago Police Superintendent Richard J. Brezeczek retired from the Chicago Police Department, he announced that the identity of any so-called killer would probably never be determined.  Corboy said:

“Even if some madman were responsible for the placing of cyanide in the product before the product was placed on the market, the sellers would still be responsible under the law.  However, at this point all discussion and talk concerning someone other than the distributor, manufacturer or seller having anything to do with the product at the time it was given to the victims of these two families is without foundation.”

The simple fact remains Corboy said, that Tylenol mixed with cyanide was sold to the public.  “That terrible, terrible condition of the Tylenol capsules is what caused these tragedies. Either the manufacturer, distributor or seller, and perhaps all three are responsible,” Corboy said.

Mary Sue McFarland, a high school graduate, had been a service representative for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company at its Yorktown center located in Lombard, Illinois since August of 1980.  She was also a member of the First Baptist Church in Elmhurst, Illinois. In addition to her father and two children, Mrs. McFarland was also survived by her mother Jane who also resides in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

Mary Ann Kellerman, a seventh grader, attended Jane Adams Junior High School in Schaumburg, Illinois and was quite active in babysitting for neighborhood children and horseback riding.  In addition to her parents, Mary Ann is survived by James and Jean Gilson, of Dexter, Kentucky, and Patricia Kellerman, of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, her grandparents.

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Corboy & Demetrio
33 N. Dearborn Street
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Chicago, IL 60602