Judge Mary McLaughlin of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania tossed a class action lawsuit last week after finding that the named plaintiffs lacked standing in In re McNeil Consumer Healthcare Litigation. A group of consumers filed the lawsuit, alleging a multitude of claims purportedly arising from quality-control issues in certain products made by Johnson & Johnson’s consumer healthcare division, McNeil Consumer Healthcare. The suit sought solely economic damages claimed to have been sustained by consumers purchasing over-the-counter medications that were recalled after the FDA cited McNeil's Fort Washington, Pa., facility for numerous manufacturing deficiencies.
In In re McNeil Consumer Healthcare Litigation, 17 named plaintiffs brought suit against the Johnson / McNeil defendants and third-party contractors. The third-party contractors were hired by McNeil to visit various retailers, act like normal customers and, in what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) characterized as a "phantom recall," purchase every drug produced at the Fort Washington facility suspected of quality-control problems. Subsequent to this phantom recall, McNeil announced a public recall. Under the public recall, the company began offering consumers the opportunity of either a partial cash refund or discount coupons on future product purchases. The plaintiffs contended that these benefits were offered to only those consumers who could satisfy certain eligibility criteria, and were otherwise inadequate.
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