Juul Labs Inc. failed to block the first trial set in a flurry of more than 2,500 personal injury cases accusing the e-cigarette maker of deliberately targeting minors in marketing its vaping products.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick on Friday rejected Juul’s final request to dismiss claims brought by a woman from Tennessee who says her teenage daughter developed an addiction since first using the company’s products at age 12.
Juul had challenged claims including fraud and failure to warn users about nicotine content and the health effects of Juul products.
The jury trial, set to start June 16 in San Francisco, is the first among six scheduled bellwether trials covering the larger set of personal injury cases over the company’s marketing practices.
Juul didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company argued the fraud claim lacks merit because the teen couldn’t identify any specific advertisement she was exposed to before she started using Juul products.
Juul also said in court filings that using “bouncy” young models, bright colors and words like “satisfaction” to promote vaping products in fruit and dessert flavors was just “puffery” that wouldn’t be taken seriously by a reasonable person.
Orrick ruled that the teen “adequately identified the sources for the alleged misrepresentations and omissions underlying her fraud-based” claims.
Juul’s legal woes grew in 2020 after a 39-state probe was announced into its teen marketing. The e-cigarette maker’s popularity had ballooned in recent years, with the company coming to dominate the e-cigarette market. That success landed it in the cross-hairs of federal regulators and state attorneys general who worried about Juul’s impact on teenagers.
North Carolina, the first state to sue Juul for allegedly advertising to minors, settled its May 2019 complaint against the company last year for $40 million. Washington state settled its case against the company this year for $22.5 million.
The case is In re: Juul Labs Inc. Marketing, Sales Practices & Products Liability Litigation, 19-md-02913, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).