As reported by Law360 (subscription), on October 23rd, 2020, U.S. District Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California issued a ruling that plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) against Juul and Altria had adequately pled their cases, finding their public nuisance and negligence claims against the e-cigarette makers and marketers to be legitimate. Complaints against Juul and Altria allege they deliberately and deceptively marketed their devices to addict underage teens to nicotine, in the process unleashing a nationwide youth vaping epidemic.
As Law360 notes, the ruling in the first round of motions in the MDL, which were consolidated in California federal court in October of 2019, provided an initial test for novel applications of public nuisance laws in the product liability context. Judge Orrick found the case convincing, noting that the complaints adequately claimed that Juul’s conduct — such as targeted social media marketing and sale of mango- and mint-flavored products — “created and maintained an illicit youth market of school-age youth addicted to nicotine, causing extreme disruption in classrooms and unique harm to schools.”
“The public nuisance claims alleged here are not as novel as [Juul] characterizes them to be; similar claims have been alleged in numerous opioid and gun manufacturer cases,” he added.
Judge Orrick also rejected Juul’s argument that the plaintiffs were inappropriately stretching nuisance laws to cover claims against manufacturers over allegedly dangerous products. Instead, he said the claims allege “an ongoing and persistent deceptive marketing campaign and intentional targeting of youth” that burdened school districts with exorbitant costs they could not have anticipated.
Judge Orrick noted that the negligence claims in the suits are similarly well-grounded, finding they could show that Juul’s “lack of reasonable care in the marketing and sales of Juul” created an illicit youth market that left schools scrambling to fix the crisis.
“This alleged conduct hooked millions of teenagers onto vaping with an addictive product that is easily concealed in schools, and foreseeably caused a multitude of problems for the school districts,” Judge Orrick said.
Read the full article on Law360’s (subscription) site.
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