Beasley Allen lawyers and co-counsel filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in Kansas, Missouri, and New York against JUUL Labs. The school districts are seeking to protect their students and hold the vaping manufacturing giant accountable for diverting resources – time and public funding – from education. The lawsuits claim that JUUL’s alleged deceptive marketing practices targeted youth and it knowingly designs its products to increase the risk of addiction. The plaintiff school districts say that JUUL’s actions created a public nuisance and a threat to public health and safety. They are represented by Beasley Allen attorneys Andy Birchfield, the firm’s Mass Torts section head, and Joseph VanZandt, along with attorneys from Wagstaff Cartmell, Goza & Honnold, and Gacovino, Lake & Associates.
“JUUL’s reckless actions have forced schools to spend their already limited funding to battle the nicotine addiction epidemic it reignited,” said VanZandt. “This lawsuit puts JUUL and other vaping manufacturers on notice that they cannot unleash such an immense threat to the public’s health and safety with impunity. We are working with our co-counsel at Wagstaff Cartmell, Goza & Honnold, and Gacovino, Lake & Associates to ensure JUUL and others responsible for this epidemic pay to remedy the consequences of their irresponsible actions.”
The plaintiff school districts include:
- Olathe Public Schools USD 233 is the second-largest district in Kansas, serving over 30,000 students. Olathe Public Schools has experienced 53 consecutive years of growth. “The top priority of Olathe Public Schools is the safety and well-being of its students and staff. Its Superintendent John Allison recently said, “Vaping has caused a serious disruption in our buildings.” The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, case number 2:19-cv-02608.
- Francis Howell School District is one of the largest school districts in Missouri, encompassing over 150 square miles in the southeast corner of St. Charles County and serving nearly 18,000 students. The district includes St. Peters, Cottleville, Weldon Spring, Dardenne Prairie, Harvester, New Melle, southern portions of St. Charles City, and eastern portions of O’Fallon. The school district’s mission is to prepare students today for success tomorrow. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, case number 4:19-cv-02713.
- Three Village Central School District serves over 6,000 students and includes Arrowhead Elementary, Minnesauke Elementary, Nassakeag Elementary, Setauket Elementary, W.S. Mount Elementary, P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School, R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, Ward Melville High School, and The Three Village Academy. Three Village is committed to providing an educational environment, which will enable each student to achieve a high level of academic proficiency and to become a well-rounded individual who is an involved, compassionate, responsible citizen. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, case number 2:19-cv-05662.
The complaints allege that school districts have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by JUUL’s conduct. Educators are being forced to expend significant resources to combat JUUL use by students. JUUL use by students during school presents both a danger to students and increases the resources necessary to educate the students who use JUUL. It also detracts from educators’ limited time and resources to educate their student population generally. Schools have installed sensors in bathrooms, removed bathroom doors, and banned USB flash drives, to name just a few of the steps taken. However, more action is needed as the epidemic intensifies and affects more communities across the country.
Beasley Allen has also filed lawsuits against JUUL Labs on behalf of individuals who are suffering from severe nicotine addiction and other physical injuries related to the use of JUUL vaping devices. Yet, schools are on the front lines in fighting this new epidemic.
After decades of success in curbing the nicotine use among America’s youth, it is once again sharply on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data shows that high school students using vaping devices soared from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent between 2011 and 2014. The rate jumped to 21 percent in 2018. During the same time period, vaping among middle school students increased from 0.6 percent to 3.9 percent.
Although JUUL wasn’t alone in creating the epidemic, it holds 75% of the vaping market. It has essentially launched a nicotine arms race by offering fruit-flavored products that would appeal to younger people, increasing the level of nicotine and improving the nicotine delivery systems. This stealthy combination established a new industry standard for other vaping product makers to follow if they wanted to compete with the giant.