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JUUL Litigation Moving Forward in California with More Cases Filed
Chaffin Luhana LLP
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On October 2, 2019, the U.S Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that all federally filed JUUL lawsuits be consolidated into one court in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for pre-trial proceedings.  District Judge William H. Orrick was assigned to oversee the process.

Since then, both parties have been working toward preparing a limited number of cases for an early trial.  Meanwhile, the litigation has been growing, with nearly 300 pending lawsuits and more expected to be filed in the coming months.

Court Sets Early Deadlines for Moving JUUL Litigation Forward

According to the recent Case Management Conference on January 13, 2020, the Court discussed a number of topics, including the importance of continued civility and cooperation between counsel and the need for the parties to think about an effective approach to and timing regarding settlement discussions.

The Court noted that the proposed discovery protocol would be entered on January 14, 2020, with other details and deadlines occurring through March.  The parties were reminded of the importance of effective coordination with state court actions, and the Court requested a list of all pending motions and a proposed timeframe for their resolution before the next status conference.

Finally, the Court set the Case Management schedule to generally occur on the third Friday of every month.  The next one is scheduled for February 14, 2020, with the one following taking place on March 20, 2020.

Individuals and School Districts Filing Lawsuits Against JUUL

JUUL faces a rising number of lawsuits filed not only in the MDL but in state courts around the country.  In addition to individuals claiming to have been injured by JUUL’s e-cigarette products, school districts have also filed claims against the company, arguing that JUUL was largely responsible for promoting vaping among middle- and high-school students.

Among those school districts that have already filed JUUL lawsuits include the San Diego Unified School District, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and others in Glendale, Compton, and Anaheim—and that’s only in California.  Others in Kansas, Missouri, New York, and Washington have done the same.

San Diego, in particular, seeks compensation for financial losses suffered because of vaping-related student absences, which can reduce federal funding available to schools.  The unified district also seeks to hold JUUL liable for outreach programs meant to recruit young users.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to JUUL in September 2019 over unauthorized marketing of their products, expressing concern over statements JUUL representatives made when speaking to students that JUUL was “much safer than cigarettes” and that the “FDA would approve it any day.”

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform started investigating JUUL’s role in the youth nicotine addiction epidemic in the summer of 2019, and heard from several witnesses who described their experiences at JUUL school presentations, where company representatives frequently reassured young people that JUUL was “totally safe.”

In another effort to curb the epidemic of vaping among young people, the FDA recently banned most cartridge-based e-cigarette flavors that are known to appeal to teenagers.  These include mostly mint and fruity or sweet flavors. Companies that do not cease to manufacture, distribute and sell these products risk FDA enforcement actions.

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