Juul Fights Suits Alleging E-Cigs Harm Teens

By Reed Yurchak July 31, 2018

Juul Labs Inc. wants a federal judge to throw out one of several recently filed suits alleging the leading e-cigarette maker improperly markets to minors and hides addiction risks.

The company, which has taken heat over teenagers’ rapid adoption of e-cigs, told a federal court in California last week that a proposed nationwide class action, Colgate v. Juul Labs, Inc., should be dismissed because the claims are trumped by federal law.

Juul also said the e-cig users shouldn’t be allowed to proceed as a class.

The company has come to dominate the U.S. e-cigarette market, taking about a two-thirds share in the three years since Juul’s product launched in 2015, according to Bloomberg News. Other top e-cig makers include units of Reynolds American Inc. and Altria Group Inc.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has bemoaned Juul e-cigarettes’ popularity with minors, as have public-health advocates.

The company says it developed its products as a non-combustible alternative for adult smokers.

Harms to Teens Alleged

But Colgate, filed in June, and another class action, Cooper v. Juul Labs, Inc., accuse the company of falsely advertising e-cigarettes and pods as providing a less addictive alternative to cigarettes, and of withholding information about negative health effects.

The marketing leads teenagers into lifelong nicotine habits, according to the complaints.

Juul’s flash-drive-shaped electronic cigarettes also deliver a more potent punch of nicotine than conventional cigarettes, and sometimes more than their product labels indicate, the suits allege.

Juul e-cigarettes consist of a rectangular device and a pre-filled “pod” of nicotine solution, according to the complaints.

The Cooper suit, filed in state court in May, seeks to represent a California class.

The mother of a 15-year-old high school freshman also sued Juul in June in New York under product liability law.

D.P. v. Juul Labs, Inc. alleges the company’s products altered the boy’s brain chemistry, caused him to be severely addicted to nicotine and put him at risk for health problems.

His mother asserts claims for design and manufacturing defects, lack of warnings, and negligent design and marketing.

Company Vows to Fight

“JUUL Labs does not believe the cases have merit and will be defending them vigorously,” company spokeswoman Victoria Davis said in an emailed statement.

The claims of the 10 would-be class representatives in Colgate are blocked by an express preemption provision in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the company said in its motion to dismiss the case.

It also argues the consumers presented their fraud-based claims with insufficient specificity and failed to state elements of consumer-protection claims. Juul also offered defenses to the plaintiffs’ warranty claims.

Migliaccio & Rathod LLP in Washington represents the plaintiffs in all three suits and didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s requests for additional information about the suits. Co-counsel in the two class actions is Gutride Safier LLP, and co-counsel in the New York suit is Giskan Solotaroff & Anderson LLP.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Juul in the Colgate suit. Juul hasn’t made an appearance in the New York suit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at [email protected]

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