A cloud of nicotine vapor hangs in the air

Defendants ask Judge to cull fresh racketeering claims from JUUL lawsuits

Altria and JUUL have asked a California federal judge overseeing a sprawling body of JUUL lawsuits consolidated into multidistrict litigation to reject fresh claims of racketeering and breach of warranty claims brought against them in amended complaints.

Beasley Allen is among the firms representing government plaintiffs in the Altria and JUUL lawsuits, which contend that the companies engineered and fueled an epidemic of youth vaping and nicotine addiction in the U.S.

Illustration of JUUL flavorsU.S. District Judge William H. Orrick largely validated the JUUL lawsuits in October. Racketeering allegations against Altria and breach of implied warranty allegations against JUUL were part of the original complaints, but the judge tossed those claims, finding they weren’t specific enough.

Plaintiffs allege that the global tobacco giant’s 35% acquisition of JUUL in December 2018 and subsequent arrangements violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. While the amended complaints add more details about the deals made between the two companies, lawyers for Altria and JUUL argue that the allegations show only that they “engaged in ordinary corporate activities.”

In a separate motion, corporate lawyers asked Judge Orrick to dismiss plaintiffs’ renewed claims that JUUL breached implied warranty under California law. The vape manufacturer argues that the amended complaint adds no allegations about specific promises on its product labeling.

As Law 360 reported, Judge Orrick’s October ruling “was an initial test of the novel applications of public nuisance laws in a product liability context, which Judge Orrick found passed legal muster.”

“Drawing on rulings in opioid epidemic litigation, the judge said that the complaints adequately claimed that Juul’s conduct, such as targeted social media marketing, created an illicit youth market of minors addicted to nicotine that disrupted classrooms,” according to Law 360.

The Altria and JUUL lawsuits argue that the companies sowed the youth vaping crisis by designing products that deliver high nicotine doses faster than conventional cigarettes, all the while lying about JUUL’s health risks and falsely claiming them to be safer alternatives to smoking.

Sweet flavors and smoother nicotine salts made vaping more palatable to minors, plaintiffs allege. JUUL products exploded in popularity when the company took to social media with youth-oriented marketing campaigns that portrayed JUUL as a “fun, harmless product.”

JUUL Litigation

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt, Sydney Everett, James Lampkin, Beau Darley, Soo Seok Yang, and Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield are currently representing a number of individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. These lawyers currently make up our firm’s JUUL Litigation Team. Lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of school districts and public entities across the country, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic. If you have a potential claim or need more information on JUUL, contact any of the lawyers on the team.

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