Juul Labs, the company which once controlled a majority of the e-cigarette market but experienced a steep drop in market share after it was accused of marketing to kids and misrepresenting the safety of e-cigarettes (vape pens), urged a federal judge to select two school districts for the first two test trials.
Also called bellwether cases, the test trials will help determine the facts for potential future trials if no settlement is reached in the mass litigation, which includes over 2,300 plaintiffs. Approximately 94% of the plaintiffs are school districts, according to Law360.com.
Juul told the judge that the plaintiffs in the first two bellwether trials should be a school district in Arizona and one in Kansas.
The company, which is partly owned by tobacco giant Altria (35% stake), is awaiting the FDA’s decision whether to approve the brand for commercial sales. Thus far, the only e-cigarette maker the FDA has approved is R.J. Reynolds’ Vuse vape pens.
Tucson is the smallest of a few school districts that the plaintiff side wants selected in the bellwether trial. Because the size of the Tucson school district mirrors over 90% of the school districts in the MDL pool, it will be a good district to test the merits of the plaintiff’s case.
Juul told the federal judge that the Goddard School District in Kansas should be the first defense pick in the MDL.
Plaintiffs have accused Juul of designing products that appealed to kids. The company is also accused of designing products that have higher levels of nicotine than combustible cigarettes.
Juul’s “Make the Switch” campaign encouraged tobacco smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. Plaintiffs allege that the campaign was fraudulently-produced because the advertisements made potential users believe that the company’s e-cigarette products were safer than regular cigarettes.
Juul is also accused of false advertising over its nicotine content on the company’s labels.
The judge presiding over the MDL previously hinted that the plaintiffs could bring up RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) claims against Juul.