Juul Labs, Altria Ask Judge to Toss RICO Claims From JUUL MDL

Juul Labs, Altria Ask Judge to Toss RICO Claims From JUUL MDL

Juul Labs and minority shareholder Altria Group asked a California federal judge on Monday to toss Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and public nuisance claims made against the e-cigarette manufacturer in an ongoing federal multidistrict litigation that claims the companies and their stakeholders collaborated to defraud the public and created a youth vaping epidemic.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick presided over the hearing in the San Francisco Federal Courthouse.

Defense attorneys representing Juul Labs and Altria Group (parent company of Philip Morris USA) said that the RICO allegations made against their clients were baseless, asking for those charges to be immediately dismissed.

According to the defendants, these charges are preempted and frustrated FDA policy objectives.

Plaintiffs – made up mostly by a consolidation of school districts – argue, however, that by giving the FDA authority over tobacco products in the Tobacco Control Act, Congress was aware of the possibility for private lawsuits under state law, due to the previous fraud of Big Tobacco that was exposed in numerous state and private lawsuits brought over time.

The public nuisance claims argue that the companies defrauded the public by presenting Juul products as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, with no scientific evidence to back that claim.

RICO claims charge that the companies presented this same message to a youth demographic and collaborated to advertise to an underage market using marketing tactics such as featuring young models in advertisements, pay-for-promotion schemes with pop culture figures, bright and colorful ads, exaggerated presence on social media platforms popular in youth culture, and flavored products that appeal to a youth market – tactics not unlike those claimed against Altria (Philip Morris) in previous litigations which found the company had targeted young people in cigarette ads.

“Sellling a flavored product is not fraud”, said Peter A. Farrell of Kirkland Eliis LLP representing the defendants. The defense went on to argue that the companies in question never spent money on the products at issue and that the plaintiffs did not adequately plead that any RICO enterprise existed.

The defense went on to categorize their clients’ actions as “normal business dealings”.

When pressed to describe how the companies participated in a RICO enterprise, the plaintiffs said that the damage found on schoolgrounds nationwide can be directly tied to the defendants’ “sham” youth prevention campaign and their campaigns to market to America’s youth. According to testimony, the plaintiffs went on to tell the judge that Juul representatives purgered themselves when they told Congress that they had no interest in targeting the youth market. “Kids were their target market.” Stated Sabita J. Soneji, representing the plaintiffs.

Soneji went on to explain that Altria Group – the largest distributor of tobacco in the world - saw in Juul a “pipeline to replacement smokers”, which prompted them to become a minority investor in Juul in an effort to once again expand the nicotine-addiction demographic range.

The companies then collaborated to mislead the public about the safety of their product and target the youth demographic to create a new generation of smokers.

Share

Litigation Updates

Vape Co. to pay $51M over youth ad blitz, mass. AG says

December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

Vape Co. to pay $51M over youth ad blitz, mass. AG says

Juul Urges Federal Judge to Select School Districts as First Two MDL Bellwether Trials

November 2, 2021

November 2, 2021

Juul Urges Federal Judge to Select School Districts as First Two MDL Bellwether Trials

New Mexico E-Cigarette Shop Hit with $2.5 million Jury Verdict for Defective Lithium-Ion Battery

October 15, 2021

October 15, 2021

New Mexico E-Cigarette Shop Hit with $2.5 million Jury Verdict for Defective Lithium-Ion Battery

E-Cigarettes, Including JUUL, Under Review and Potentially Banned

September 20, 2021

September 20, 2021

E-Cigarettes, Including JUUL, Under Review and Potentially Banned

Chicago Files E-Cigarette Lawsuit Over Flavored Tobacco After New Tobacco Regulations

February 2, 2021

February 2, 2021

Chicago Files E-Cigarette Lawsuit Over Flavored Tobacco After New Tobacco Regulations

Juul, Altria Must Face Public Nuisance and Negligence Claims

October 27, 2020

October 27, 2020

Juul, Altria Must Face Public Nuisance and Negligence Claims

CLIENT REVIEWS

quotation
Tom Lewis

TorHoerman Law was responsible for handling a medical case for our family. I was extremely impressed with their professionalism and ability to react quickly. They also did a nice job keeping us updated with the case throughout the process. This was the first time experiencing a situation like this and Tor Hoerman law did an excellent job from start to finish.

quotation
Jordan Terry

TorHoerman Law is an extraordinary law firm – a firm that truly makes the client’s best interests the primary concern. Their team of personal injury lawyers are experienced, personable, and well versed in a range of litigation areas. They are supported by a dedicated team of staff that are as equally friendly and helpful. I would recommend TorHoerman Law for any personal injury litigation needs.

quotation
Dave Woodley

All of my questions were answered quickly and in a way I could understand. Steve and the entire staff were friendly and professional.

quotation
Jordan Butler

I highly recommend this law firm! The attorneys and staff at THL worked hard, communicated every step of the process, kept me well informed at all times, and exceeded all expectations! The staff is kind, considerate, professional, and very experienced. Look no further, call now!

quotation
Maddy Moeller

Top-notch, hardworking attorneys!

quotation
Karen Hersman

A wonderful and professional legal team. They helped me when I needed expert legal representation! Thank you TorHoerman Law!

quotation
Angel Truesdale

They contacted me the next day. Very nice people!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR MESSAGE

One of our associates will follow up with you shortly