MONTGOMERY, ALA. (June 9, 2020) – Beasley Allen Law Firm, together with a coalition of law firms committed to helping school systems nationwide fight the youth vaping epidemic, has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. on behalf of Russellville School District in Pope County, Arkansas. Russellville is the first Arkansas school district to join nationwide litigation seeking to hold JUUL accountable for marketing its addictive products to young people without warning them of the risks. As a result, lawsuits allege, JUUL created a new generation of nicotine addicts, resulting in a public nuisance impacting school systems and forcing them to expend limited time and resources.
The national law firm coalition includes Baron & Budd, P.C.; Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, PC; Goza & Honnold, LLC; Panish Shea & Boyle LLP; Wagstaff & Cartmell, LLP; and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger. The coalition has teamed up with attorney James A. Streett of the Streett Law Firm, P.A. in Russellville, Arkansas, and Gerard Stranch of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, in Nashville, Tennessee, to help school districts and public entities combat the youth vaping epidemic.
Joseph VanZandt is leading Beasley Allen’s efforts on this litigation team. “We are pleased to represent Russellville School District, which is leading the charge in Arkansas to fight for students and schools negatively impacted by nicotine addiction,” said VanZandt. “It is the mission of schools and educators to improve the lives of students by helping them achieve academic success. Unfortunately, because of its decision to prey on young people, JUUL has severely impacted that mission by diverting time and resources from educational programs to those fighting addiction and raising awareness about the risks of vaping and nicotine.”
Dr. Mark Gotcher, Superintendent of the Russellville School District, says the seriousness of the vaping crisis was brought home to him in the 2018-2019 school year after two students suffered medical emergencies on campus as a result of vaping. He began to educate himself about vaping and nicotine addiction, and working with school leaders to amend existing discipline policies on campuses in an attempt to curb usage among students and educate them about the dangers of vaping.
“What I thought I understood about vaping was that it was a safer alternative to smoking,” Dr. Gotcher says. He discovered that one vape cartridge could contain as much nicotine as several packs of cigarettes. “That was very alarming to me,” he says. “But, it really put things into perspective and allowed me to come to my own conclusion of how deep a problem this could be for youth across our nation and our very own students.”
Dr. Gotcher, who has worked in the Russellville School District since 1994 and was a deputy commissioner at the State Department of Education, said he is seeing nicotine addiction from vaping affect students as young as fifth-graders. After a survey of students, it is estimated 20% of the student population consistently vaped, tried vaping or continues to vape.
The complaint is filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, case number 3:20-cv-03916.