Court Outlines Process for Settling JUUL Addiction Lawsuits, and Other Claims

Some reports estimate the settlement to resolve JUUL addiction lawsuits will cost the manufacturer $1.7 billion.

Following the recently announced JUUL vaping addiction settlement, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation has issued an order outlining the process for resolving thousands of individual lawsuits, determining who is eligible for a settlement and the amount of each lawsuit payout.

Nearly 5,000 JUUL lawsuits have been filed in the federal court system, including both individual teen addiction cases and claims brought on behalf of various school districts and other entities that have incurred damages dealing with the fall out from the vaping epidemic that emerged after the introduction of JUUL e-cigarettes in 2015.

JUUL vape pens were aggressively marketed towards teens and young adults, featuring a design that appeared similar to USB drives, allowing teens to hide their vaping habit from parents and school officials. The e-cigarettes were sold in a variety of fruity flavors, and promoted by social media influencers, leading to widespread JUUL vaping addictions among teens throughout the U.S. over the past decade.

According to allegations raised in litigation pursued by families and school districts nationwide, JUUL Labs failed to disclose the high nicotine content of their products and falsely suggested that the e-cigarettes were safe, leading to a new generation of young Americans now addicted to nicotine.

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Given similar questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system, the JUUL litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where a series of early trial dates were expected to begin this year to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. However, last month JUUL labs issued a press release announcing that it had reached a global resolution of the lawsuits.

JUUL Settlement Announcement

JUUL Labs issued a press release on December 6, announcing it has reached a global resolution for 5,000 JUUL lawsuits filed against the company in the U.S., involving claims being pursued by about 10,000 plaintiffs. The JUUL settlement is expected to resolve personal injury complaints, as well as lawsuits filed by government entities and Native American tribes.

Details of the JUUL settlement and average lawsuit payout amounts have not been confirmed by the manufacturer or Court, but the New York Times published a report on December 10, indicating sources say JUUL has agreed to pay about $1.7 billion to settle more than 5,000 cases pending nationwide.

On December 16, Judge Orrick issued a case management order (PDF) detailing the settlement process for personal injury plaintiffs, government entities and Tribal Nations pursuing claims against JUUL Labs, calling for all plaintiffs to be notified of the order and the settlement agreement following the order.

The Court confirmed that the settlement includes all plaintiffs with personal injury cases filed or who have tolled their claim with the manufacturer by December 13, 2022, regardless of whether or not that claim is filed in the federal litigation pending before Judge Orrick. The settlement also resolves all claims brought by government entities by December 6, 2022, and all cases by Native American tribes filed by October 21, 2022.

To participate in the settlement, personal injury plaintiffs must file a completed Plaintiff Fact Sheet by January 20, 2023, and government entities and tribal plaintiffs must file completed Plaintiff Fact Sheets by January 13, 2022. Personal injury plaintiffs must submit Settlement Program Eligible Plaintiff Participation Forms, by May 15.

The order also stays the litigation proceedings for the time being while the settlement process plays out.

Settlement Comes as FDA Considers JUUL Ban

The settlement agreement was reached only a few months after the FDA announced it intends to ban JUUL products from the U.S. market, due to an inability by the manufacturer to prove that the products can be sold in a way that does not threaten public health.

However, almost immediately after the ban was announced, JUUL filed a lawsuit to delay the ruling to give the company time to respond. The FDA agreed and has delayed the ban from going into effect for the time being.

The exact amount of each individual JUUL addiction settlement payout is unclear at this time, but Judge Orrick has appointed Retired Gail Andler to serve as Special Master and each plaintiff will have the option to opt-out of the settlement.

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