JUULing Nicotine Addiction Risks Not Adequately Disclosed, Multi-Plaintiff Lawsuit Claims

According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit recently filed against JUUL Labs, four individuals indicate the manufacturer of the controversial e-cigarette failed to adequately warn about the JUULing nicotine addiction risks, which has ensnared millions of teens and young adults over the past few years.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in California on January 24, pursuing damages for Julien Piltzer, Rebecca O’Brien, Tracey Zuniga, and Connor Houston, each indicating they developed vaping addictions due to the high levels of nicotine delivered by JUULing, which was not disclosed on the warning label.

JUUL was just introduced in 2015, but quickly became the most widely used vaping product among teens, following aggressive marketing directed to minors and prior non-smokers. The addictive JUUL pods are designed to look like USB drives, allowing students to hide their vaping habit from teachers, parents and other adults. Although the manufacturer suggested JUUL was safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, the high levels of nicotine are delivered by each pod, making the device particularly addictive.

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According to the lawsuit, all four indicate they became addicted to JUULing due to the false and misleading safety statements made by the manufacturer. While O’Brien and Zuniga began JUULing as adults, Piltzer and Houston indicate that they were still minors when they first used the vape pens.

In addition to addiction injuries, Piltzer and O’Brien claim they suffered seizures which required medical treatment and hospitalization. Zuniga developed pneumonia, bronchitis, shortness of breath and chest pain. Houston suffered a 45% collapsed lung, breathing difficulties and seizures which left him hospitalized for four days.

“JUUL failed to evaluate and warn about the dangers of its products, and it falsely advertises its e-cigarette system as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes,” the lawsuit states. “JUUL evaluated and knew or should have known the potential dangers of its products but failed to adequately ascertain and warn about those dangers.”

The plaintiffs present claims of negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, deceit by concealment and constructive fraud.

JUUL Teen Epidemic

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.

In addition to designing JUUL to look like a USB thumb drive, the manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL pods 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 found 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 September 2019, 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.

As a growing number of product liability and class action complaints continued to be filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, a panel of federal judges decided to in October to consolidate all JUUL nicotine addiction lawsuits before one judge in the federal court system, including both individual product liability claims filed by families, as well as complaints brought on behalf of school districts and other organizations.

While this most recent case was filed at the state level, JUUL cases pending throughout the federal court system will 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.

As JUUL addiction lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months, the litigation is expected to continue to grow, and is likely to encompass tens of thousands of complaints.


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