Last Friday, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III, overseeing the growing JUUL litigation, issued a court order ruling to dismiss the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices Act (RICO) against the manufacturer. However, the company's bid to toss or put a stay over the lawsuits that claim the e-cigarette giant for fueling the vaping epidemic was rejected.
The company argued that the court did not have primary jurisdiction over e-cigarette marketing and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds the authority. The company also noted that the claims brought by consumers and local governments are preempted by federal law.
Judge Orrick, in the order, stated that the allegations are taken as true and reasonable inferences and are plausibly supported over which relief can be granted.
RICO Act is a United States federal law usually brought for criminal penalties and a civil cause of action against criminal organizations, such as the mafia and large drug cartels. Over the lawsuits filed against JUUL, the RICO claims would have allowed courts to award triple damages for deliberately targeting teens.
The use of e-cigarettes among high school students has increased 10-fold, from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015, due to its easy availability on the internet. According to a national survey of middle schools and high schools, 43.3 percent of schools had to implement JUUL-specific policy, along with an e-cigarette policy.
The first set of bellwether trials will begin in February 2022, which would involve a small set of representative claims that will undergo a case-specific discovery process to learn how juries respond to specific evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
JUUL Labs Inc. is currently facing more than 1,100 lawsuits and class action claims, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturer created false and misleading advertisements for JUUL, plaguing the U.S. with nicotine addiction problems in recent years. The JUUL litigation has been centralized under MDL. No. 2913 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.