Juul Labs Inc. urged a federal judge to select cases by school districts in Arizona and Kansas as the first two bellwether trials in mass litigation over allegations it misrepresented the safety of e-cigarettes.
The company is battling claims it misleadingly told the public that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, allegedly fanning the flames of a youth vaping epidemic. Government entity cases will be the first group of bellwether trials, and of those government entities, almost 94% are school districts.
Four districts are under consideration. Tucson’s size as the smallest of three districts put forward by the plaintiffs means it will make a good representative as the two sides use the bellwether process to value the claims of the entire case pool.
As the second bellwether trial, Juul would like to see a defense pick, Unified School District 265 in Kansas, also known as just Goddard.
The plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation say the company’s products were designed to give users higher doses of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
They have argued that Altria Group Inc., which holds a 35% stake in Juul and produces Marlboro cigarettes, among other brands, is liable for direct acts of fraud for its role in a campaign called “Make the Switch,” encouraging tobacco smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. The plaintiffs have also alleged false nicotine content statements on Juul packaging. Altria Group Inc. bought its stake in Juul in December 2018.