Motion Seeks To Consolidate JUUL Lawsuits Pending Throughout For Federal Courts Over
With a growing number of JUUL injury and class action lawsuits being filed throughout the federal court system, the manufacturer of the controversial e-cigarette has asked a panel of federal judges to consolidate and centralize the litigation in one court, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
In recent years, JUUL vape pens have quickly grown to dominate the market for electronic cigarettes, especially among teens and young adults. However, they have also been linked to reports of nicotine addictions, respiratory issues and other health problems.
The JUUL pods are designed to look like USB thumb drives, allowing the vaping habit to be hidden from parents, teachers and other adults. In addition, the manufacturer sells the product in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers begining to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.
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Over the past year, a number of individual JUUL lawsuits have been filed on behalf of teens and young adults who have developed addictions or other injuries, as well as JUUL class action claims brought to recover damages for all consumers who have purchased the vape pods or may face future health consequences.
In a motion to transfer (PDF) filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on July 29, JUUL Labs indicated that it now faces 10 substantially similar product liability complaints, including six claims seeking class action status.
As lawyers continue to review claims for JUUL addictions and injuries, the company indicates that it expects the number of cases to increase dramatically in the coming months.
“The class allegations in all of the putative class actions also substantially overlap: although the class definitions vary slightly, all seek to certify nationwide and/or statewide classes of purchasers and/or users of JUUL products,” the motion states, indicating JUUL does not believe any of the cases can be certified. “It is imperative that class certification proceedings be handled in a coordinated manner in a single MDL proceeding.”
The motion indicates consolidating the cases as part of a federal multidistrict litigation will serve the convenience of the courts, parties and witnesses, and would prevent duplicative discovery and contradictory rulings.
JUUL Labs is calling for the cases to be consolidated in the Northern District of California, where four of the ten claims have been filed. However, plaintiffs and other parties involved in the pending litigation have not yet filed responses.
JUUL Teen Addiction Concerns
Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels. In fact, e-cigarettes have become the most popular form of tobacco among teens. JUUL dominates this underage nicotine use market.
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.
If the JPML agrees to consolidate the cases into a multidistrict litigation (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.
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