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A panel of federal judges will hear oral arguments later this month to determine whether all JUUL lawsuits should be centralized before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
In recent years, the JUUL vape pend have quickly grown to dominate the market for electronic cigarettes, especially among teens and young adults. However, a growing number of product liability lawsuits are now being pursued throughout the federal court system, each involving similar claims that former users developed life-time nicotine addictions, respiratory injuries or other health problems.
In July, the manufacturer filed a motion in with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to centralize all lawsuits over JUUL vape pens in the Northern District of California, indicating at the time that at least 10 product liability complaints and six class action lawsuits had been filed nationwide.
As lawyers continue to review and file claims for JUULing addictions and other injuries, that number is expected to rise dramatically in the coming months, which is likely to increase the risk of conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and duplicative discovery into common issues in the claims.
In a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) issued on August 15, the JPML agreed to hear oral arguments and consider the creation of a JUUL multidistrict litigation (MDL) at a hearing session set for September 26, at the United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, California.
JUUL Teen Addiction Concerns
Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels, 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.
In February, the American Lung Association gave the FDA a failing grade for not doing enough to prevent teens from using and buying e-cigarettes. Vaping is now the most popular form of tobacco youth among U.S. teens, with rates of teen use jumping by 78% from 2017 to 2018 alone.
In 2011, when the FDA first said it would regulate e-cigarettes, only 1.5 percent of teens vaped, but now more than one-third of teens use e-cigarettes.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics also called on the federal government to implement more stringent vaping laws across the country, and not wait another year to act.
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 six deaths, and nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
If the JPML agrees to consolidate the cases into an MDL, all pretrial proceedings would be handled by one judge, but the cases would remain individual lawsuits. If a settlement agreement is not reached, the cases would be transferred back to their originating districts for trial.