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Remembering the 1982 Tylenol Murders, Wrongful Death Suit

In the wake of the Tylenol recall, Boston personal injury lawyers are remembering the last Tylenol recall, which happened in 1982 and had a strong connection to the greater Boston area.

In 1982, seven people were killed when they ingested cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules in the greater Chicago area. The alleged suspect, however, was a Cambridge, Massachusetts resident.

Although James W. Lewis of 170 Gore St. was never charged in the killings, he remained the primary suspect and spent 12 years in federal prison for allegedly trying to extort $1 million from Tylenol's manufacturers.

The 1982 Tylenol Murders sparked an outcry and backlash, resulting in reform in the way that foods and medical products are packaged.

The seven victims at the time included four women, a twelve year old girl and two men. They all died after taking Tylenol that had been purchased at Chicago area drugstores and grocery stores. As it turned out, the culprit had opened the capsules and replaced some of the medication with cyanide.

As a result of the 1982 Tylenol Murders, the external tamper-proof wrapping that we've now become accustomed to became implemented.

At that time, Tylenol makers, Johnson & Johnson, spent over $150 million to recall the painkillers. The company subsequently did damage control in a monumental and famous public relations campaign.

Johnson & Johnson settled in 1991 for an undisclosed sum, payable to the families of the victims in the form of annuity payments. The families began filing the wrongful death lawsuits back in the 1980's and were suing for amounts ranging from $10 million to $15 million in wrongful death damages, as well as damages for pain and suffering. And while Boston injury lawyers don't know much about the details surrounding the settlement, it's fair to say that the current recall is bringing back memory of the fatal 1982 events.

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