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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal JUUL lawsuits has established the process for the parties to select a small group of addiction injury cases to be prepared for the first bellwether trials, which are expected to go before juries in early 2022.
There are currently more than 900 product liability and class action complaints filed throughout the U.S. District Court system, each involving claims teens and young adults have been left with nicotine addiction problems from JUUL vaping pods, which have been aggressively marketed by the manufacturer in recent years toward minors and prior non-smokers.
According to allegations raised in the litigation, false and misleading advertisements for JUUL created a new generation of Americans addicted to nicotine. In addition to the individual addiction claims, a number of class action lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of school districts and other entities that have incurred damages that resulted from the nationwide vaping epidemic that has plagued the U.S. in recent years.
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation is currently centralized before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where JUUL Labs, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters are located.
Late last month, Judge Orrick indicated the first bellwether trials will begin in February 2022, involving a small group of representative claims that will go through a case-specific discovery process and early trials to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
In an order (PDF) issued on September 9, Judge Orrick announced he was adopting the plaintiffs’ suggestions on how to select those bellwether cases and the case schedule, which will resulted in a series of five bellwether trials expected to begin on February 22, March 28, May 9, June 20 and August 1, 2022.
According to the order, the parties and the court will select a total of 24 personal injury cases for the initial bellwether discovery pool by December 15, 2020. Six cases will be selected by plaintiffs, six by defendants, and 12 will be selected randomly by the court.
Core discovery on the initial pool of cases will begin as soon as selections are made, and will conclude by April 15, 2021. Following this process, each party will be allowed to strike one case from the pool by April 22. A week later, on April 30, each party will identify four cases from the remaining pool, for a total of eight cases.
From there the court will select the individual cases that will be set for bellwether trials.
JUUL Teen Addiction Problems
As JUULing addiction lawyers continue to review and file claims for teens and young adults in the coming months and years, the litigation is expected to continue to grow, likely to include thousands of complaints against the manufacturer fo the controversial vaping pod.
Plaintiffs allege JUUL products were intentionally designed to look like a USB thumb drive, which has made the product popular among teems who are able to hide their vaping habit from parents, teachers and other adults. In addition, the manufacturer sold JUUL pods in various candy-like flavors, without disclosing the high levels of nicotine and risk of addiction.
JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the teen e-cigarette epidemic in the United States, resulting in new generation now addicted to nicotine.
While the outcomes of these early bellwether trials will not be binding on other claims pending in the federal court system, they will be closely watched and may greatly influence any JUUL settlements offered by the manufacturer to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trial dates in the coming years.