Vaping Manufacturer Fights for its Life in the U.S.
JUUL Labs, the manufacturer of the most popular nicotine vaping product, is facing numerous lawsuits across the United States over the ways that its sales and marketing practices allegedly led to the explosion of youth vaping problems. Some litigation may be concluding, while other lawsuits and actions by regulatory agencies continue forward. The litigation is costing JUUL huge amounts of money to fight and resolve the actions, while regulators may effectively put the company out of business.
Tentative $438 Million Settlement for JUUL Litigation with More Than Thirty States
In September 2022, JUUL agreed to pay more than $438 million to resolve investigatory actions by more than 30 states into claims that the way in which the company has marketed its product has led to a crisis of teenage vaping in the United States. This tentative settlement prohibits JUUL from doing things that it has mostly already ceased doing or insisted it never did — marketing directly to youth, primarily with flavored nicotine pods allegedly aimed squarely at children. Investigations by the states also produced evidence the company had intentionally hired young models to push its products and favored youth-friendly social media venues to appeal to teens. One study discovered that some 45% of JUUL followers on Twitter were teens under the age of eighteen.
The tentative settlement specifically prohibits JUUL from using anyone under age 35 in visual ads for its products, and the company insists it has already changed its marketing aim toward being an aid for adult smokers trying to quit cigarettes, saying that its mission is “. . . to transition adult smokers away from cigarettes . . . while combating underage use. . . .”
Other Legal Difficulties for JUUL Continue
While this major settlement resolves a large portion of JUUL’s legal and regulatory problems, other actions remain. In addition to this case and prior settlements with a handful of other states, JUUL still faces:
- Lawsuits by other individual states, including California and New York.
- Regulatory challenges with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Class action in federal court involving more than three thousand plaintiffs.
In June 2022, the FDA entered a “marketing denial order” for the JUUL device and specific types of JUULpods in the United States, banning the distribution and sale of the products (but not possession) in the U.S. The FDA determined there was insufficient evidence related to the toxic effects of the products to justify their use, although the FDA also noted a lack of specific information showing them to be an “immediate hazard.” Shortly thereafter, a federal appellate court and then the FDA itself stayed enforcement of this marketing denial order pending additional, ongoing review. While this review continues, if the marketing denial order is eventually allowed to go into effect, it would essentially put JUUL out of business in the United States.
Class Action JUUL Litigation Moves Forward in California Federal Court
Beyond these actions by state governments and the FDA, JUUL has also been facing a “multi-district litigation” (MDL) class action that consolidates some 3,600 lawsuits into one matter in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. This court, headquartered in San Francisco, was selected as the venue for this class action that brings together thousands of separate claims against JUUL filed by individuals and entities such as school districts and local governments.
An important step in any class action such as this is the certification of the classes of plaintiffs involved in the matter. These “classes” identify groupings of plaintiffs who share common factors, and who can therefore proceed forward as a group rather than as individuals. The judge overseeing this matter certified four classes in June 2022:
- A “Nationwide Class” including anyone in the United States who purchased JUUL products.
- A “Nationwide Youth Class” of those purchasers who were under 18 years of age.
- A “California Class” of those who purchased JUUL products in California.
- A “California Youth Class” of California purchasers who were under 18.
In addition to the age and geographic locations that these groups of JUUL purchasers had in common, the judge also determined that they all shared in common similar allegations against JUUL, including:
- Unjust enrichment;
- Warranty breaches;
- Unfair conduct; and
- Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act claims.
The judge disagreed with JUUL and its co-defendants’ arguments that the plaintiffs had insufficient common characteristics to be sorted into these classes.
View this recent video from CBS News describing the dangers of youth vaping and how to communicate those dangers to teens:
Products Liability Attorney in Sacramento
Hello, my name’s Ed Smith, and I’m a Sacramento products liability lawyer. While JUUL Labs Inc. fights for its corporate life, many individual people fight for their literal lives and health — unfortunately this includes a great many teens who have unknowingly become addicted to nicotine due to the way that many vaping products have been marketed and sold to them. If you or a family member has been injured by a defective or improperly marketed vaping product, please call us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay
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