JUUL Addiction Cases To Be Prepared For Early Trial Dates, Likely Beginning in February 2022
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all JUUL addiction lawsuits indicates that the first bellwether trial is likely to go before a jury in February 2022.
There are currently more than 900 product liability complaints filed throughout the federal court system, each involving claims that teens and young adults have been left with nicotine addiction problems from JUUL vaping pods.
According to allegations raised in the litigation, false and misleading advertisements for JUUL specifically targeted teens and prior non-smokers, creating 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.
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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.
According to minutes (PDF) from a status conference held on August 21, Judge Orrick indicates that while the Court had hoped to start the first JUUL bellwether trials by the end of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and other scheduling issues means that the first trial date is more likely to start in February 2022.
While plaintiffs had proposed holding the first bellwether trial in December 2021,
While Judge Orrick indicated that he was inclined to accept much of a proposal submitted by plaintiffs regarding the selection for bellwether cases, he was unable to approve the proposal for the first bellwether trial to begin in December 2021. However, he noted the Court still had to review details of the proposal further before issuing a final order.
The plaintiffs’ proposal, detailed in part in a joint case management conference statement (PDF) submitted on August 20, calls for the class action and individual lawsuits to go through discovery in parallel, with the first trials involving individual addiction cases.
“Recognizing that discovery is largely common to all types of cases, Plaintiffs are developing each type of case alongside the others, sharing resources, and methodically spreading tasks,” the proposal states. “The goal of this approach is efficiency.”
While discovery progress has been made, and depositions are being conducted remotely, the plaintiffs note that the court should not wait until the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated delays are resolved, since there is no indication of when that will occur.
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.
As part of the consolidation into a MDL, Judge Orrick indicates he will establish a “bellwether” process, where a small group of representative claims will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if the manufacturer fails to reach JUUL settlements or another resolution for the claims following the consolidated pretrial proceedings, each individual case may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials in the future.
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