June 28, 2022. In a robust 94-page opinion, Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California certified four classes of people who bought Juul Labs, Inc.’s (JLI) electronic-cigarettes and nicotine products.
In the multidistrict litigation In Re JUUL Labs, Inc. Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, the order granted the consumers’ request for class certification of two nationwide classes and two California classes, saying the plaintiffs’ fraud, unfair conduct, unjust enrichment and warranty claims, as well as an organized scheme claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) are all common to the classes. Plaintiffs allege that JLI’s marketing was unlawfully deceptive, their products were unlawfully marketed to youth, and their products are not fit for ordinary use.
Defendants Juul Labs, Inc., Altria, and individual directors of JLI argued that the consumers had not demonstrated that common issues predominate, noting that adult and underage consumers have individual reasons for trying and continuing to use Juul products. The defendants also argued that Juul’s alleged conduct varied and changed over time–including the design and flavors of the products, product labeling decisions, and marketing campaigns–making it impossible to allege common practices that affected the entire class.
But Judge Orrick said those differences are “largely immaterial when considering the legal standards for the claims the proposed classes rest on.” The significant questions asserted in the case — including whether Juul’s marketing was “youth-oriented” and how much of the youth-driven consumption can be linked to Juul’s conduct — are subject to each side’s experts’ opinions, Judge Orrick held.
The Court’s order affirms the consumers’ damages models, including a full refund damages model for the Youth classes. The Court also denied all the defendants’ Daubert challenges to plaintiffs’ expert witnesses.
“Judge Orrick’s thorough certification order provides detailed rebuttals to almost all of Defendants’ challenges and paves the way to relief for all the purchasers of Juul who were harmed by its misleading marketing and messaging,” said Partner Sabita Soneji. “I am incredibly proud to serve on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and work with such an amazing team of lawyers in this litigation.”
This certification order comes just a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was removing Juul’s products from the market, capping a two-year review of its tobacco and menthol-flavored vaping merchandise because its requests for approval did not include enough evidence that their benefit to adult smokers outweighs the public health risks.
The case is In Re JUUL Labs, Inc., Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, Case No.: 19-md-02913-WHO in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.