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Family Sues Drug Manufacturer Over Death

February 19, 1987

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ The family of a 23-year-old woman who was killed by a cyanide-tainted Tylenol capsule filed a $94.5 million suit Thursday, charging the manufacturer and the store that sold the capsule with negligence and reckless disregard for the public.

In addition to $92 million in punitive damages, the family of Diane Elsroth asked $2.5 million stemming from Ms. Elsroth’s wrongful death and her pain and suffering.

The suit names Johnson & Johnson, its subsidiary McNeil Consumer Products, which manufactures Tylenol, and the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. because the capsule was purchased at an A&P in Bronxville.

The suit claims specifically that the inner and outer seals added to Tylenol bottles after seven Chicago-area deaths in 1982 were inadequate ″to prevent tampering with the product.″

Ms. Elsroth’s death on Feb. 8, 1986, prompted the pharmaceutical company to stop manufacturing two-part capsules and replace them with ″caplets,″ a tablet shaped like a capsule.

The suit called A&P negligent for failing to monitor and properly handle the products in the store.

Johnson & Johnson spokesman Robert Kniffen said, ″We are confident that the courts will not hold Johnson & Johnson or McNeil Consumer Products responsible for the acts of an unknown murderer.″

A spokesman for A&P, who asked not to be identified, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Miss Elsroth, a secretary in a Manhattan real estate firm, was spending the weekend at the Yonkers home of her boyfriend, when she took two Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules either late Feb. 7 or early Feb. 8.

The family found her dead the next day; an investigation revealed she had died from cyanide poisoning.

The cyanide was determined to have been in the Tylenol capsules she took.

Five other capsules in the same bottle had also been tainted and another bottle with tainted capsules was found in a nearby Woolworth’s.

Lawsuits totaling more than $40 million are pending from the Chicago deaths.

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