JUUL Litigation Includes Claims Brought By More Than 4,500 Users, Government Entities and School Districts
More than 4,500 individuals, school districts and municipalities are currently pursuing lawsuits against JUUL Labs, alleging that the e-cigarette manufacturer caused a new generation of teens and young adults addicted to nicotine, by encouraging minors and prior non-smokers to start using their vape pens.
JUUL pods were just introduced in 2015, and quickly became the most popular form of nicotine exposure among teens and young adults in the United States.
Marketing efforts by the manufacturer have been blamed for fueling the teen vaping epidemic, which has caused widespread disruption in schools, additional costs for local municipalities and left young adults addicted to high levels of nicotine in each JUUL pod, often leading to smoking and long-term health concerns.
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Given common questions and fact and law raised in complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the JUUL 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. However, additional cases are also pending in various state courts.
According to a Joint Case management Conference Statement (PDF) issued on April 14, the parties report there are currently more than 2,000 cases filed in the federal court system, which are consolidated before Judge Orrick as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. This includes JUUL nicotine addiction injury cases brought by 1,730 individual users, as well as claims presented by 146 school districts, 20 counties, 2 cities and 20 tribes.
There are also another 422 complaints pending in California state court, which are assigned to Judge Ann I. Jones in the Los Angeles Superior Court as part of a JCCP. This includes 75 government entity cases and 345 personal injury claims, covering more than 2,500 individual plaintiffs left with nicotine addictions after using JUUL products.
The personal injury lawsuits have been filed on behalf of young adults who began vaping as teens, as well as parents the parents JUUL users who are still minors.
School districts and other government entities say JUUL devastated their communities, classrooms and budgets by addicting children in those schools and communities to a device which appeared designed to foster addiction in children.
The JUUL vape pens were designed to look like USB drives, allowing teens to hide their vaping habit from parents and school officials. The pods were also sold in a variety of candy-like flavors intended to appeal to prior non-smokers, and the manufacturer targeted teens through social media and other efforts that failed to disclose the high levels of nicotine, which may cause life-long addiction problems.
To help the parties evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims, Judge Orrick has established a “bellwether” program where groups of cases representative of fact patterns repeated throughout the litigation are being prepared for early trial dates.
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.
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