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In July 2019, JUUL Labs, the leading manufacturer of e-cigarette products, filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all federally filed JUUL lawsuits into one court for more efficient pre-trial proceedings.

The company requested the Northern District of California since JUUL has its headquarters there, and because most of the cases filed at that time were pending in that court.

The JPML listened to arguments on the issue on September 26, 2019, and decided to create a coordinated multidistrict litigation docket for JUUL lawsuits, agreeing that the Northern District of California in San Francisco was the best location. The panel assigned the Honorable William H. Orrick III to preside over the litigation since he has the desired experience and is currently presiding over the JUUL lawsuits already proceeding in California.

JPML Agrees that JUUL Lawsuits Involve Common Questions of Fact

The JPML’s transfer order brought together ten actions already pending in the Northern District of California, two from the Middle District of Alabama, one each in the Middle District and Southern District of Florida, and one from the Southern District of New York. The panel was made aware of an additional at least 40 potentially related actions.

The lawsuits involve allegations that JUUL targeted young people when marketing its products, created products with sweet flavors specifically to attract minors, and promoted nicotine addiction. The actions include both personal injury cases and class-action lawsuits.

The plaintiffs supported the centralization of the actions, though some disagreed on the appropriate transferee district. Other suggestions including the Eastern District of Louisiana, the District of Maryland, and the District of New Jersey.

The JPML agreed that the actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation while eliminating the risk of duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings.

Pressure Increasing on JUUL Labs

Meanwhile, JUUL Labs has been taking heat from several organizations for the way the company been marketing its products. On September 9, 2019, the FDA sent a warning letter to the company.

In that letter, the agency noted that after reviewing testimony from a July 2019 hearing examining JUUL’s role in the youth nicotine epidemic—as well as documents from FDA inspections of JUUL headquarters, JUUL’s website, and JUUL’s submissions to the agency—it determined that JUUL was making false statements about its products.

These statements included that JUUL products were “99% safer” than cigarettes, or “totally safe.” Even more concerning: these statements were made directly to children in school.

“Our concern,” wrote Ann Simoneau, J.D., Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement Center for Tobacco Products, “is amplified by the epidemic rate of increase in youth use of ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery system] products, including JUUL’s products, and evidence that ENDS products contribute to youth use of, and addiction to, nicotine, to which youth are especially vulnerable.”

Congress launched its probe into JUUL in June 2019, and the manufacturer is facing increasing pressure from state attorneys general, as well. Those offices in Illinois and the District of Columbia are already investigating how the company’s vaping products became so popular with young people.

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