An Illinois woman whose lungs were severely injured after she started vaping is suing JUUL, alleging the vape maker “intentionally downplayed, misrepresented, concealed and failed to warn of the risks of nicotine exposure and addiction that the products posed.”

The Herald-News reports that Piper Johnson of New Lenox, Illinois, filed the lawsuit in Will County, Illinois court. She alleges that JUUL’s youth-oriented marketing lured her to start vaping when she was just 16. Like most teens who started “JUULing,” Ms. Johnson says she was unaware the products contained nicotine.

That’s because in its earlier days, JUUL failed to mention its flash-drive-resembling devices were essentially electronic cigarettes, and that their fruity-flavored pods were loaded with nicotine.

Severe diffuse pneumonia, lung damage

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Johnson started to experience labored and painful breathing. She was driving with her mother to the University of Northern Colorado where she was to begin her freshman year when her breathing became excessively difficult and painful.

Instead of going to the university, Ms. Johnson’s mother took her straight to the hospital in Greeley where doctors diagnosed her with “acute hypoxic respiratory failure” and put her in critical care. A CT scan of her lungs showed that she suffered from diffuse pneumonia, meaning that the infection was spread all over her lungs instead of affecting just one part.

First EVALI case in Colorado

At that time, a mysterious vaping-associated lung disease had fallen under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) radar. The CDC had confirmed about 215 cases of the severe pulmonary disease in 25 states. As doctors and public health researchers came to understand more about the illness, the CDC named it EVALI, short for “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury.”

Ms. Johnson’s doctors found her symptoms fit the profile of EVALI, which was still relatively nascent at that time. She became the first confirmed case of EVALI in Colorado.

Allegations

After a week in the hospital, Ms. Johnson rebounded enough to start her freshman year, but she was left with significant lung damage due to her use of JUUL products, her lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit contends that JUUL worked aggressively to turn “a generation of adolescents into addicts, constantly craving the next hit off their JUUL,” according to the Herald-News.

The lawsuit alleges that with its deceitful product design and marketing schemes, JUUL violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, negligent marketing, defective product design, failure to warn of dangers and risks and negligent product manufacturing.

JUUL currently faces hundreds of lawsuits filed by state and local governments, school districts, and individuals. As of July 2020, more than 750 of these lawsuits have been combined into multidistrict litigation (MDL).

The MDL lawsuits include allegations that JUUL marketed its vaping products in a manner designed to attract minors; that the company’s marketing misrepresents or omits that its products are more potent and addictive than cigarettes; that JUUL products are defective and unreasonably dangerous due to their attractiveness to minors, and that JUUL promotes nicotine addiction.

Harmed by JUUL products?

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.

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