The Beasley Allen Law Firm has filed another lawsuit on behalf of a school system. The Tucker County (West Virginia) Public Schools has filed a complaint against vaping manufacturer JUUL Labs. Tucker County Public Schools has been significantly impacted by the egregious conduct of JUUL Labs. Administrators within the schools estimate that 90% of high school students in their schools are using JUUL. In addition to the rampant use at the high school level, eighth-grade students who were privy to a STEM program facilitated at the high school were exposed to JUUL products being used on campus. School administrators estimate that 25% to 35% of eighth graders in the system are also using JUUL. Tucker County Public Schools officials have discovered students as young as fourth grade using JUUL devices.
Tucker County Public Schools is among a large number of school systems nationwide forced to deal with a widespread vaping epidemic. Deceptive marketing by companies like JUUL, which target youth by selling flavors appealing to children and ensuring almost immediate addiction in young people by using increased amounts of nicotine in each cartridge has led to a generation of vaping device users that will surely rival tobacco usage at its prime. The school system is represented by Beasley Allen’s Andy Birchfield, head of the firm’s Mass Torts Section, Joseph VanZandt, James Lampkin, II, and Sydney Everett along with Chris Luzier of Miller Luzier PLLC, Kirk Goza and Brad Honnold of Goza & Honnold LLC, and Thomas Cartmell, Jonathan Kieffer and Tyler Hudson of Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP.
“Beasley Allen has been at the forefront of the JUUL epidemic and we are honored to represent Tucker County Public Schools in West Virginia and dozens of other school districts around the country in their fight to combat the vaping epidemic,” Birchfield said. “JUUL has exposed a generation of our youth to unprecedented levels of nicotine addiction. Schools are being impacted and have been forced to incur a multitude of costs to address this problem and are also faced with the challenge of how to remedy and abate the problem. We’re honored to fight on behalf of courageous schools and administrators to correct the wrongs and hold JUUL accountable.”
Beasley Allen filed lawsuits on behalf of other school districts last fall as well as one filed on Friday. Similarly, Tucker County Public Schools is also seeking to protect its students and hold the vaping manufacturing giant accountable for diverting resources – time and public funding – from education. Tucker County Public Schools wants JUUL to correct the wrongs that it has created by pedaling its products to kids on social media. The plaintiff school system explains that in addition to deceptive marketing geared toward the younger generations and unleashed on social media, JUUL also specifically preyed on school districts.
Company representatives used marketing events disguised as “educational” anti-vaping presentations to introduce even more children and youth to its dangerous vaping products. The lawsuit alleges that this has put schools at the “epicenter of the youth vaping epidemic.” Further, the sudden rise in youth vaping is an epidemic that happened so unexpectedly it left school systems like the plaintiff scrambling to combat the epidemic on a number of different fronts. Little or no research exists about the effectiveness of prevention and cessation methods. This diverts even more resources from schools’ primary educational purpose.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter last September outlining JUUL’s deceptive marketing and the steps it took to target schools. The company and its vaping products are also the subject of other government investigations and regulatory actions. The FDA Acting Commissioner said the company “ignored the law” when he described how company representatives made misleading statements about the products’ safety in schools across the country.
Although JUUL wasn’t alone in creating the epidemic, it holds 75% of the vaping market. JUUL has experienced extraordinary financial success at the expense of America’s youth, parents and educators. In 2017 alone, JUUL’s revenues grew by 700% to $200 million, hitting the $1 billion mark the following year. Entrepreneurial endeavors should be applauded but not at the expense of children’s health or by straining parents’ and educators’ own financial resources to deal with the fallout of the epidemic.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California as part of the JUUL multidistrict litigation case number 19-md-02913-WHO.