Natrona County School District Sues E-cigarette Maker JUUL Labs
The Natrona County School District on Wednesday made good on its promise made last month to sue e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, Inc., according to a complaint filed in federal court.
"Plaintiff, a school district, has incurred, and continues to incur, significant expenditures of time and resources to combat rampant use of Defendant's nicotine projects by students, including during school," Jackson attorney Jason Ochs wrote in the 84-page complaint.
"The significant time and resources necessary to combat this reality and maintain the safety of Plaintiff's students and achieve the educational goals of Plaintiff are unique from the harm suffered by the general public," Ochs wrote.
The school district's board of trustees on May 11 agreed to sue JUUL after receiving reports about the use of e-cigarettes -- an electronic device that vaporizes chemicals often containing nicotine and other chemicals and inhaled -- among students. The district's attorney Craig Silva said about a third of high school students nationwide uses, or vapes, with e-cigarettes, but about 60% of Natrona County School District high school students regularly vape. The district has had to deal with disciplinary issues regarding vaping.
Trustee Dave Applegate said then that the costs of litigation will be borne by attorneys and not the district.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal and state agencies have been investigating the lung injuries caused by vaping.
In the Natrona County School District's lawsuit, Ochs outlined the development of e-cigarettes with these facts and allegations including:
- The formation of JUUL Labs, Inc., by Stanford University graduate students Adam Bowen and James Monsees, and the history of the company now valued at $38 billion.
- How Bowen and Monsees adapted youth-oriented marketing methods from tobacco companies.
- How JUUL misrepresented and concealed the design of the e-cigarettes including their highly addictive nature and amount of nicotine delivers.
- The use of social media to influence youth.
- Using flavors such as fruit and mint to appeal to youth.
- How schools are disproportionately harmed by JUUL.
The school district's counts against JUUL include violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; public nuisance; negligence and gross negligence; willful misconduct; strict product liability -- failure to warn -- and design defect; and unjust enrichment.
The school district is demanding a jury trial and wants to be awarded triple damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees and other relief.
Nationally, hundreds of individual and class-action lawsuits have been filed and combined into a mass litigation lawsuit in San Francisco, according to Drugwatch.
Ochs' complaint did not indicate whether the school district's lawsuit will be combined into such a mass litigation lawsuit.
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