A California federal judge won’t let Juul Labs Inc. and Altria Group Inc. cut the bulk of claims from a teenager’s suit alleging that they deceptively advertised their vaping products to minors, saying there are fact questions about whether the girl saw or was affected by advertising for the e-cigarettes.
U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick largely denied bids for partial summary judgment filed by Juul and Altria in a suit brought by a minor identified as B.B., dismissing only those claims that B.B. abandoned during the summary judgment briefings.
The case is one of hundreds in the California-based multidistrict litigation concerning Juul’s marketing of electronic cigarettes.
B.B. began using Juul’s e-cigarettes when she was 12 in 2017, after she was given some by a friend, and has continued to use them. She alleged that advertising of the products made them seem healthy and safe, and that if she’d known the dangers, she would have either stopped using them, or not used them in the first place.
Her suit brought 17 claims against Juul and Altria, including strict liability, failure to warn, negligence and misrepresentation claims. Juul moved to dismiss her fraud, failure to warn, breach of warranty, manufacturing defect, failure to recall and medical monitoring claims, while Altria had sought to dismiss her common law negligence and gross negligence claims, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and medical monitoring claims.
Juul argued that B.B. hadn’t shown that she relied on the advertisements, as she did not initially buy the vaping products, so she can’t claim that those advertisements caused her to pick up and continue vaping.
Judge Orrick said, however, that B.B. identified the types of advertising materials she was exposed to and testified that she hadn’t noticed the warnings on those advertisements because they were not prominent.
Altria had first argued that B.B.’s claims under common law were subsumed by the Tennessee Products Liability Act, saying that it is not a manufacturer covered by the terms of the act in regard to B.B.’s claims.
The panel said however,that B.B. has introduced evidence that could lead a juror to conclude that Altria’s ongoing talks with Juul encouraged Juul to continue reaching out to the youth market in ways that affected B.B.’s decision to vape and keep vaping.