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From Products Liability Law Daily, April 16, 2019

Class action suit against JUUL e-cigarette makers asserts products liability, fraudulent marketing claims

By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.

The suit seeks monetary damages and an order enjoining further negligent, deceptive, unfair, and unlawful conduct.

The parents of a minor child who allegedly was addicted to JUUL, an e-cigarette, and who suffered seizures as a result of her e-cigarette use, filed a class action lawsuit in a federal district court in Florida against JUUL Labs, Inc., Altria Group, Inc., and Philip Morris USA, Inc., on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, alleging that the defendants used fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices to sell their dangerous and addictive products to teens and young adults. The suit also asserts design defect, failure to warn, and negligence claims (NesSmith v. JUUL Labs, Inc., April 15, 2019).

The minor child, a 15-year-old girl, began purchasing and using JUUL vaping products when she was 14. Her parents alleged that when she first began "JUULing," their daughter had been unaware that JUUL products contained nicotine. According to the complaint, the minor child is addicted to nicotine and has experienced seizures after using JUUL. The parents filed a class action lawsuit against the entities involved in the manufacture, distribution, sales, and marketing of the JUUL vaping products, alleging that the products are defectively designed, that the manufacturers knew that the ordinary use of the products was harmful, especially to teens and young adults, and failed to provide sufficient warnings. The complaint asserts claims for negligence, strict liability (design defect and failure to warn), RICO violation, fraud, unjust enrichment, and deceptive and unfair trade practices.

Allegations. As to the negligence claim, the complaint contends that the defendants had a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the development and marketing of its product, including but not limited to: (1) ensuring that JUUL marketing does not target minors; (2) safeguarding against JUUL devices and JUUL pods being sold and/or distributed to minors; and (3) adequately warning users of the dangers and risks associated with the use of the product. The defendants allegedly breached this duty by using marketing that was geared towards young adults and failing to warn of the risk of nicotine addiction. The parents assert that as a direct and proximate result of the manufacturers’ negligence, their minor child suffered damages when she purchased and used an unsafe product.

In support of the strict liability claims, the complaint alleges that: (1) the product was defective; (2) the defect existed at the time the product left the manufacturers’ control; and (3) the defect was not discoverable by consumers. The complaint further maintains that the defendants knew or should have known of the defective condition and the risks associated with the use of the product and that they failed to warn consumers. Due to the manufacturers’ failure to remedy the defective condition of its product, consumers continue to be at risk of incurring damages to their person arising from use of the JUUL products, the complaint alleges.

The complaint also seeks certification of the proposed classes, which include:

  • All persons who purchased, in the United States, JUUL products;
  • All residents of Florida who purchased JUUL products;
  • All residents of Florida who, at the time of their use of JUUL products, were under the age of 18, and who procured and used JUUL products;
  • All legal guardians of United States residents who, at the time of their use of JUUL products, were under the age of 18, and who procured and used JUUL products; and
  • All legal guardians of Florida residents who, at the time of their use of JUUL products, were under the age of 18, and who procured and used JUUL products.

Relief sought. The plaintiffs demand a jury trial; seek an order enjoining the defendants from further negligent, deceptive, unfair, and unlawful conduct; and request the awarding of actual, compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages, along with restitution, reasonable attorney fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, court costs, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

The case is No. 8:19-cv-00884-MSS-AAS.

Attorneys: Jeffrey L. Haberman (Schlesinger Law Offices, PA) for Erin Nessmith.

Companies: JUUL Labs, Inc.; Altria Group, Inc.; Philip Morris USA, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory ComplaintNewsStory TobaccoProductsNews ElectronicProductsNews DesignManufacturingNews WarningsNews FloridaNews

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