JUUL Lawsuits Consolidated Before One Federal Judge In California
Given common questions of fact and law raised in a growing number of JUUL lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, a panel of federal judges has decided to consolidate and centralize all claims over the addictive e-cigarettes before one judge in California, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Dozens of product liability and class action lawsuits over JUUL have been filed in recent weeks, including allegations that the manufacturer marketing their product toward minors and prior non-smokers, while failing to warn that the e-cigarette is 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
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In July, JUUL Labs filed a motion in with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to centralize the litigation over JUUL vape pens before a single federal judge, to avoid conflicting pretrial schedules, reduce duplicative discovery and increase the efficiency of managing the mounting litigation, which included at least 10 product liability complaints and six class action lawsuits at that time.
Following oral arguments presented late last month, the U.S. JPML issued a transfer order (PDF) this week, indicating that JUUL cases pending throughout the federal court system will all be consolidated before 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, and where five of the earliest complaints were filed.
The panel rejected arguments presented September 25, which called for the cases should be divided into two separate tracks: one for class action lawsuits and one for individual claims. However, the plaintiffs who put the proposal forward agreed at the hearing that all the claims should be consolidated in one multidistrict litigation (MDL).
“These actions share multiple factual issues concerning the development, manufacture, labeling, and marketing of JUUL products, and the alleged risks posed by use of those products,” the panel determined. “Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, the possibility of inconsistent rulings on class certification, Daubert motions, and other pretrial matters, and conserve judicial and party resources.”
JUUL Teen Addiction Concerns
Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States, 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 indicated 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 at least 15 deaths, as well as investigating whether JUUL is linked to nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
Last week, following a federal survey indicating a quarter of high school students vaped within the last 30 days, and facing a criminal probe into its alleged marketing to children, JUUL suspended all advertising in the United States, and it’s CEO resigned.
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.
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