JUUL lawsuits claim the e-cigarettes cause unexpected harm. Plaintiffs have suffered seizures, lung injuries or strokes after vaping. Some lawsuits also refer to high nicotine levels in e-cig fluids and Juul pods. They claim the high amount of nicotine causes vaping addiction. Only a few e-cigarette lawsuits have gone to trial at this point. Some have ended in judgments of $2 million.
Why Are People Filing E-Cigarette Lawsuits?
Lawsuits against e-cigarette maker JUUL center around one of the following claims:
- High concentrations of nicotine in e-liquid cartridges can cause nicotine toxicity, leading to seizures or convulsions.
- Vaping may increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart attack and angina.
- Nicotine salts used in JUULpods are highly addictive, making it hard for people to quit vaping.
- E-cigarette devices contain a manufacturing defect that causes injury to the user or others, such as a battery that overheats or explodes.
Many lawsuits are being filed by parents or guardians on behalf of their minor children (mostly teenagers) who have used JUUL vape pens believing they were safer than traditional tobacco products.
E-Cigarette Seizures in Young Adults and Teenagers
April 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about reports that some e-cigarette users have experienced seizures or convulsions. Most of the people affected were young adults and teenagers, very few of whom had a prior medical history of such problems. The FDA is collecting adverse event reports in order to study the issue further.
Seizures are a known symptom of nicotine poisoning. While there are no studies yet linking vaping and seizures, in 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a report on the Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. Conclusion 14-2 of the report states, "There is conclusive evidence that intentional or accidental exposure to e-liquids...can result in adverse health effects including but not limited to seizures, anoxic brain injury, vomiting, and lactic acidosis."
Young adults and parents of teenagers who suffered seizures after using e-cigarette devices are suing JUUL and other manufacturers, claiming that the high concentrations of nicotine salts in their e-juice (JUULpods) contributed to the severe reaction. They are hoping to receive compensation for pain and suffering caused by the seizures, medical costs of treatment, and other expenses related to nicotine toxicity.
Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning
E-Liquid Nicotine Addiction and Other Chemical Effects
In addition to seizure claims, many JUUL lawsuits have focused on the health consequences of the e-liquids used in vapes. These e-liquids contain nicotine and other chemicals in high concentrations, the long-term side effects of which are still largely unknown.
The addictive nature of nicotine is well-known. Some lawsuits allege that JUUL "pods" (e-liquid replacement cartridges) deliver higher nicotine levels than tobacco cigarettes. One lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California cited a study that found children who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to become cigarette smokers than those who do not use them. The greater addiction is explained by the use of nicotine salts, a concentrated form of nicotine that is more easily absorbed by the body.
In addition to providing highly addictive products, the company intentionally advertised their vaping products to young people, many JUUL lawsuits claim. The company's website likened JUUL devices to "the iPhone of E-cigs," making them seem like "a cool, fashionable item to own and use," as one lawsuit put it. Furthermore, JUUL gave its flavor pods names that some say are more enticing to children, such as "cool mint," "fruit medley" and "crème brûlée." Some people have even claimed that the look of JUUL vapes - which appear similar to USB flash drives - contributes to their attraction by young people. JUUL's marketing techniques, coupled with higher concentrations of nicotine, make the product more dangerous according to the plaintiffs.
Vape Explosions (Defective Batteries)
Vaping devices are small electronic machines that heat and vaporize flavored liquids, which the user can then inhale. While vapes have different styles (generations) and shapes, they are all operated by small, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Because of their design, vaping devices can overheat and explode, causing severe damage to the user's face, hands, or other parts of the body. In some cases, the injuries have led to death. Vape explosions can also start fires, endangering more than just the person using the device.
Some legal claims argue that vaping devices are even more dangerous than other products containing lithium batteries for two reasons:
- The combination of a battery plus a heating element
- The cylindrical design, which causes the battery to shoot out from the device like a rocket or bullet
The second claim is based on a report by the U.S. Fire Administration, which said that lithium-ion batteries in other devices, such as laptops or smartphones, are flat, rectangular and often sealed in plastic, making them less likely to build pressure when they overheat.
According to one study, at least 2,035 e-cigarette explosions occurred in the United States from 2015 - 2017. These explosions have led to burns, broken jaws, and even several deaths, along with other injuries. An unwillingness on the part of manufacturers to test and update e-cigarette design is alleged in many vaping lawsuits.
FDA Actions Against E-Cigarettes
The FDA has authority to regulate tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. While electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) - also known as vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, and e-cigarettes - do not contain tobacco, they fall under the same class of products as regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes and related items.
Final Rules on E-Cigarettes: In August 2016, the FDA finalized its rules regarding nicotine products, which include regulations for e-cigarettes and vaping devices. These rules cover the manufacture, importation, packing, labeling, and other aspects of e-cigarettes, including advertising and promotion of the devices. It also covers device parts and accessories, such as e-liquids and their containers, batteries used in the devices, displays and even software used in the devices.
E-Cigarette Youth Campaign: In September 2018, the FDA announced plans for a new campaign that would warn children about the potential dangers of e-cigarette use, given the rise in e-cigarette use of e-cigarettes among young adults. According to the agency's press release, the campaign will target approximately 10.7 million high school students and middle-schoolers aged 12-17 who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them. The campaign will focus on warning children about the health risks of e-cigarette addiction and other health concerns related to vaping.
Surprise Juul Inspection: Also in September 2018, the FDA sprung a surprise inspection on JUUL Labs, Inc., the largest manufacturer of e-cigarette devices, at its San Francisco headquarters. The agency left with hundreds of thousands of documents related to the company's sales and marketing efforts. Shortly after this surprise inspection, the e-cigarette company shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Seizure Warnings: In April 2019, the FDA issued a warning that some young adults and teenagers were experiencing seizures after using e-cigarettes. The agency is gathering data to study the potential relationship between vaping and seizures.
Notable E-Cigarette Lawsuits
No class action lawsuits have been filed against JUUL at this time. A number of individual vape lawsuits have been filed in various federal courts. Most JUUL lawsuits were consolidated via multidistrict litigation (MDL) in October 2019. The MDL process helps streamline shared aspects of litigation between many individual lawsuits.
JUUL MDL 2913
The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) created MDL 2913 in October 2019. Judge William Orrick will preside over the MDL in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
MDL 2913 includes lawsuits filed by JUUL users, their parents and school districts affected by the vaping epidemic. They share a number of common claims, including:
- School-age children were deliberately targeted by e-cigarette marketing.
- JUUL designed their e-cigarettes to be easily concealed from parents and school administrators.
- JUUL pods failed to disclose accurate nicotine content.
As of January 2021, there are more than 1,800 cases pending in MDL 2913. School districts represent at least 100 of these cases. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the court may not schedule any bellwether trials in this MDL until sometime in 2021.
State of Hawaii versus JUUL Labs, Inc.
In June 2020, Hawaii Attorney General Connors filed a lawsuit against JUUL and Altria. The complaint alleges:
- JUUL used deceptive marketing tactics designed to target teenagers.
- JUUL products understated their nicotine content and its addictive properties.
Attorney General Connors claims JUUL directly copied the tobacco-company playbook. According to Connors, "They deceived the public and created a new generation of nicotine addicts."
No hearings have been scheduled for this case yet.
Bradley Colgate and Kaytlin McKnight (California)
Two plaintiffs in Northern California filed a complaint against JUUL Labs and Pax Labs, claiming that the companies used false advertising and predatory marketing techniques to sell their products. As part of the claim, Colgate and McKnight allege that JUULpods (e-liquid packets) contained highly addictive concentrations of nicotine, which prevented them from being able to stop buying JUUL products. The lawsuit claims JUUL "built a commercial empire on fraud, misrepresentations and omissions," focusing its efforts on attracting younger users through marketing efforts and by placing retail locations near middle schools, high schools and college campuses.
Using a number of studies, government reports, and even JUUL's own patent filings, the Colgate and McKnight lawsuit claims that JUUL vapes and JUULpods are not only addictive, but they are more addictive than other brands of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. By failing to note this research, plaintiffs argue, the vape maker misrepresented its products and prevented consumers from making an informed decision about whether to use their e-cigarettes.
In October 2018, many of the state law-based claims against JUUL in the Colgate and McKnight lawsuit were dismissed due to preemption by the Tobacco Control Act, a federal law that dictates what tobacco product manufacturers must put on warning labels. However, the judge presiding over the case declined to dismiss claims related to the company's statements about levels of nicotine in JUULpods.
This case was added to MDL 2913 in October 2019.
L.P. on Behalf of D.P. (New York)
Because the case involves a minor (D.P.), the names of the child and his mother (L.P.) are kept anonymous in the complaint, using only their initials. The lawsuit claims that after first trying JUUL e-cigarettes in September 2017, D.P. quickly became addicted to nicotine, and despite extreme attempts to get him to stop, he was unable to do so.
This individual lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that JUUL products do not contain any warnings about the inclusion of nicotine as an ingredient or the potentially addictive nature of the product. It also goes into some detail about JUUL's advertising campaigns on social media and popular magazine websites like Vice, which bills itself as the "#1 youth media in the world." Among the allegations are:
- The use of "JUUL bots" on Twitter that only posted JUUL-related content
- The marketing of "candy-like" flavoring that entices younger users to try JUUL e-cigarettes
- The sale of "fun" accessories geared towards younger users, such as vinyl coverings ("skins") and off-brand pods by third parties
This case was added to MDL 2913 in October 2019.
Vape Battery Explosion Lawsuits
In November 2017, a woman named Treacy Gangi filed a lawsuit on behalf of her husband, 30-year-old Thomas Gangi, who was killed when an e-cigarette exploded, launching part of the device into his brain and skull. The explosion also caused a fire in his home, and Thomas died as a direct result of injuries sustained from the explosion and resulting fire. Treacy claims that the defendants - in this case Flawless Vape, Shenzhen Kangside Technology, Anker Technology Corp., Smoktek, among others - were responsible for wrongful death, along with breach of warranty and negligence, by failing to create a safe e-cigarette product.
While manufacturers continue to claim that vaping devices are safe, media reports indicate that the number of e-cigarette explosion lawsuits are increasing. According to one source, more than 120 vape battery explosion lawsuits were filed in 2017 alone. In several of the cases, the vaporizers exploded in the person's mouth, knocking out teeth and causing burns.
Recent Exploding E-Cigarette Reports
- June 2019 - A teen in Springfield, OR, suffered burns on his thigh due to an exploding vape. Read more ≫
- February 2019 - A man in Fort Worth, TX, was killed when his vaporizer exploded in his face. Read more ≫
- July 2018 - A North Carolina man suffered facial injuries when his vape exploded. Read more ≫
- May 2018 - A Florida man dies in a fire caused by an exploding e-cigarette. Read more ≫
- March 2018 - A 17-year-old boy from Nevada suffered broken teeth and jaw due to an exploding vape. Read more ≫
E-Cigarette Settlements and Verdicts
Public records of e-cigarette compensation amounts are limited, in part because some vape lawsuits involve minors. However, there have been a few cases that resulted in settlements or favorable verdicts for the plaintiffs.
Jennifer Ries ($1.9 million): While charging her e-cigarette in the car on the way to the airport, the device suddenly started dripping liquid right before the battery suddenly exploded. The hot liquid gave Ries second-degree burns on her legs, hand, and buttocks, leaving behind scars. Ries sued the distributor, wholesaler, and tobacco shop where she bought the e-cigarette, and after a short trial, the jury awarded her $1.9 million.
J. Michael Hoce ($2 million): In the first e-cigarette lawsuit to go to trial in Florida, the Gainesville man sued R-L Sales, an online distributor, over a defective battery. In 2016, after using his vaping device for two months, the e-cigarette exploded while Hoce was visiting his parents. The blast blew out four of Hoce's teeth and caused severe bleeding, requiring emergency treatment at a nearby hospital. In addition to the $2 million for pain and suffering, the jury awarded him $47,800 in medical expenses.
Frequently Asked Questions About E-Cigarette Lawsuits
Who Can File an E-Cigarette Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one has suffered from vaping addiction, injury, or death as a result of using a JUUL e-cigarette or a vape device from another manufacturer, you could be eligible to submit a legal claim. It is important to file as soon as possible, as filing deadlines in each state vary based on the statute of limitations.
What Compensation Is Available for E-Cigarette Lawsuits?
Some people have received millions of dollars in e-cigarette compensation. While not every person who submits a claim is guaranteed to receive that much, typically monetary damages can be awarded for any or all of the following reasons:
- Money spent on defective devices, including e-cigarettes, flavor pods and other supplies or accessories
- Costs of medical treatment related to the injuries caused by the device, including emergency care, surgery, prescriptions, follow-up appointments, physical or occupational therapy, addiction rehabilitation and mental therapy
- Loss of income, such as taking time off work or leaving a job to receive treatment or to take care of a family member who has been injured by an e-cigarette
- Pain and suffering on behalf of the injured person, including physical, mental and emotional anguish
- Funeral or other end-of-life expenses in the case of wrongful death lawsuits
- Punitive damages to punish the company for making and distributing a dangerous product
When considering whether to file a lawsuit, it is important to keep records of all your expenses, including receipts for the products themselves, bills from hospitals or doctor's offices, statements of benefits from insurance providers, prescription records and anything else that could contribute to your case.
How Much Does Filing an E-Cigarette Lawsuit Cost?
E-cigarette lawsuits can be expensive, and in many cases, families are already trying to pay off medical bills or other costs related to the victim's injuries. The good news is that you will not need to spend any money up front to file a lawsuit. You can file a legal claim on contingency, meaning you will not have to pay legal fees until you receive compensation for your case.