Juul Labs announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to settle about 5,000 lawsuits in Northern California court for an undisclosed amount, resolving another legal battle over the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes responsible for the teen vaping crisis.
The proposed multi-county litigation agreement will end personal injury, consumer class action, government and Native American tribal cases in a deal that the company said it has secured investment to fund.
“These agreements represent an important step in strengthening Juul Labs’ operations and ensuring the company continues to achieve its mission of eliminating combustible cigarettes for adult smokers while combating underage cigarette use,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
In September, the company settled a three-dozen-state investigation for $438.5 million. This investigation focused on the company’s early marketing of its products, including the use of younger models and the sale of flavors such as mango and creme brulee, which many believed were deliberately targeted at minors. This agreement set conditions for Juul’s marketing that prohibited the company from targeting youth.
Juul has repeatedly denied targeting minors, and in other settlement rounds the company has admitted no wrongdoing in reaching settlements with plaintiffs. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the latest settlement does not end claims against Altria, which owned a 35% stake in Juul. The agreement does not offer funds immediately, but opens up the application process.
“The scope of these lawsuits is huge,” Sarah R. London, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the statement said. “These settlements will provide significant compensation to victims and their families, provide real money to schools for pollution control programs, and help government and tribal organizations prevent youth use of e-cigarettes in the US.”
The company is still awaiting a decision from the Food and Drug Administration regarding permanent marketing authorization for its vaping devices and pods. In June, the agency rejected the company’s bid to keep its e-cigarettes on the market. Juul received a temporary stay of the trial, and then the FDA set aside its decision for further review, which is ongoing.
Juul said Tuesday’s deal involved about 10,000 plaintiffs, many of whom said they didn’t know the product could be more addictive than cigarettes. The plaintiffs, which included school districts, also argued that e-cigarettes were unnecessarily dangerous due to their appeal to young people. They filed a variety of claims, from racketeering to fraud and unjust enrichment.
Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, said she hopes the settlement will be big enough “to compensate the millions of American families whose lives have been turned upside down by the Juul-created vaping-driven youth epidemic.” The Group is not a plaintiff in this multi-district lawsuit.
She said she was concerned about the lack of details originally released by Juul and hoped the judge overseeing the trial would require Juul to provide documents showing whether the company intentionally targeted teenagers.