Litigation Update: Juul MDL Developments

by | Jul 7, 2020

On June 29, 2020, the defendants Juul Labs, Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. filed motions to dismiss the class action complaint filed in the federal multi-district litigation against three non-management director defendants, arguing the plaintiffs failed to prove that the non-management directors participated in any fraudulent business practices, that the claims are pre-empted by federal law, and that the plaintiffs lacked jurisdiction.

Consumers argued to the presiding California judge that federal law does not bar their claims that Juul and Altria deceptively offered e-cigarettes as a method by which consumers could quit smoking when in fact the product simply offered an alternative way to deliver nicotine and encourage addiction.  They contend, in fact, that when Congress gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, it was well aware of the ongoing chance of private litigation being pursued under state law and yet still crafted the Tobacco Control Act with a very narrow provision that clearly sought to limit federal pre-emption.

In earlier motions filed on June 22, Juul and Altria asked the California court managing the federal MDL to throw out claims from seven government entities, in particular the Tucson Unified School District; the School Board of Broward County, Florida; Central Bucks School District; the School Board of Escambia County, Florida; Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District; the County of Santa Cruz; and Three Village Central School District, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to link their public nuisance claims to any actions of the two companies. Altria contended that many of the claims at issue were initiated before Altria bought its stake in Juul.  Juul also stated that it owed the plaintiffs no duty of care since they never purchased Juul’s products and that municipalities were precluded from recovering the costs of providing public services to the public – one aspect of the damages the plaintiffs are seeking.

Arguments on the motions are scheduled to be heard in September.

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