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The U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal JUUL lawsuits has approved new procedures that allow individuals nationwide who have suffered nicotine addiction or other damages associated with the controversial e-cigarettes to file claims directly in his court.
There are currently several dozen product liability and class action lawsuits over JUUL that have been filed in various different U.S. District courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer engaged in an illegal marketing scheme that has resulted in widespread “JUULing” addictions among teens and young adults throughout the U.S.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, all JUUL cases were centralized last month before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III, in the Northern District of California, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
As more parents and young adults step forward to pursue claims over nicotine addictions and other damages linked to vaping, JUUL injury lawyers expect that there will ultimately be thousands of complaints filed throughout the federal court system.
To avoid delays associated with transferring cases from different federal district courts, Judge Orrick issued a case management order (PDF) on December 13, which outlines the procedures for direct filing of future cases in the MDL. This allows cases to be brought in the Northern District of California, instead of being filed in other courts and then later transferred.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, it is expected that Judge Orrick will appoint a group of JUUL attorneys to serve in various leadership roles during the litigation, conducting discovery and taking certain actions that benefit all plaintiffs.
JUUL Nicotine Addiction concerns
The JUUL litigation moves forward as federal regulators and communities nationwide work to combat the problems posed by widespread vaping addiction among teens and young adults.
According to a recent study by federal health officials, a quarter of all high school students indicate they have vaped within the last 30 days this year.
JUUL has been accused of fueling the vaping epidemic in the United States, through the design and marketing of their product. The e-cigarettes 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.
The manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers starting to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.
On September 9, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence it told school-aged children that its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.
Facing a criminal probe into the marketing activities directed at children, JUUL suspended all advertising in the United States recently, and it’s CEO resigned. Since then it has also ceased sales of all flavors except tobacco, menthol and mint.
As part of the MDL proceedings, it is expected that Judge Orrick will schedule a series of early “bellwether” claims for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if settlements for JUUL addictions or another resolution is not reached by the parties, each individual claim may later be remanded back to home districts for individual trial dates in the future.