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The U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal JUUL injury lawsuits will meet for the first time tomorrow with lawyers involved in the litigation, during an initial status conference.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in product liability and class action lawsuits over JUUL, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided last month to centralize the litigation 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.
Each of the claims raise similar allegations that the e-cigarette manufacturer illegally marketed their products towards minors and prior non-smokers, while failing to warn that JUUL pods are more potent and addictive than traditional cigarettes.
As more parents and young adults step forward to pursue claims after becoming addicted to JUUL, it is widely expected that thousands of cases will be presented throughout the federal court system.
In an agenda (PDF) issued yesterday, Judge Orrick outlined his goals for the initial status conference on November 8, 2019.
At the end of the conference, Judge Orrick indicates thhat a small group of lawyers will be appointed on an interim basis to serve in various leadership roles, to avoid any delay in preliminary discovery and other issues while the Court reviews the results of an initial census of JUUL cases before making permanent appointments to the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Team.
A number of JUUL injury lawyers have applied to be part of Plaintiffs’ Leadership or Steering Committees, and proposed structures for the groups, which would take certain actions during the consolidated litigation that benefit all plaintiffs.
During the conference, Judge Orrick indicates that he wants to hear short presentations, limited to two minutes, from the various attorneys who are seeking positions.
“To be clear, I appreciate the effort that went into building the proposed leadership groups, but I do not intend to adopt either of them wholesale,” he wrote. “I have concerns about the size of the Leadership Structure, and until I receive the census results I will not be able to knowledgably balance the selection of lawyers in light of the numbers, types, and scope of the cases within the MDL.”
Judge Orrick also indicated he plans to move the litigation forward with a sense of urgency, indicating that monthly telephone status conferences will be held, with the next scheduled for December 9.
JUUL Teen Addiction Concerns
In recent years, e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing problem of teens becoming addicted to nicotine, through the design and marketing of their vape pen.
JUUL was 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.
A recent study found that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Another study warns that vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.
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.
In addition, federal and state health experts are investigating whether JUUL and other e-cigarettes are linked to hundreds of cases of respiratory illness, including more than 30 deaths, as well as investigating whether JUUL is linked to nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
In September, facing a criminal probe into its alleged marketing to children, JUUL suspended all advertising in the United States, and it’s CEO resigned. Since then it has also ceased sales of all flavors except tobacco, menthol and mint.
As part of the consolidation into a MDL, all pretrial proceedings will be handled by Judge Orrick, but the cases will remain individual lawsuits. If settlements for JUUL nicotine addictions or another resolution is not reached during the pretrial proceedings, each case may eventually be transferred back to their originating districts for trial in the future.