Can I Sue for Health Problems Caused by JUUL® E-Cigarettes?

Understand your legal options if you're experiencing health problems linked to e-cigarettes or vaping.

E-cigarettes are extremely popular, especially among young people. Part of this popularity is due to the perception that using e-cigarettes (also known as "vaping") is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. The truth of that perception is up for debate. What is clear is that a number of consumers, including teens, have suffered serious medical problems linked to the use of e-cigarettes. These problems have led to a number of civil lawsuits, many of which have been filed against JUUL Labs Inc., one of the leading e-cigarette companies in the United States in terms of market share.

Health Problems Linked to Vaping and E-Cigarette Use

Some of the first health concerns related to vaping focused on the amount of nicotine in the product, and the form of delivery; the argument here is that vaping allows the body to absorb nicotine faster than traditional cigarettes do, leading to nicotine poisoning and acute nicotine addiction.

Some of the more recent reported health problems associated with e-cigarettes and vaping include:

  • seizures
  • stroke
  • heart problems
  • lung injury (linked to use of vitamin E acetate in vaping products), and
  • kidney problems.

Keep in mind that potential harm from use of a product is not enough to impose legal liability on the maker of that product. There has to be a violation of a law or a breach of a legally-recognized duty of care in order for companies like JUUL Labs Inc. to be responsible for medical problems suffered by users of their products. The lawsuits against JUUL Labs and other e-cigarette companies seek to prove just this kind of violation.

The Legal Basis of E-Cigarette Manufacturer Liability

Most vaping-related lawsuits focus on the safety of e-cigarettes, as well as the questionable advertising methods of companies like JUUL Labs. Some plaintiffs allege that much of the advertising and promotion devoted to these products is specifically designed to entice underage users. For instance, JUUL Labs, whose e-cigarettes are often referred to under the umbrella term "JUUL®":

  • promoted JUUL® products on social media
  • used young models in advertisements
  • used "influencers" popular with teens to promote the products, and
  • introduced flavors that would be popular with teens, such as mint and mango.

The legal arguments vary, but most revolve around the idea that JUUL Labs sold a dangerous product and misrepresented the nature of this danger to consumers, including those not old enough to legally purchase e-cigarettes.

Let's look at some of the more commonly relied-upon legal theories for imposing liability on JUUL Labs.

Negligence

The crux of any negligence claim is that the defendant (the person or company being sued) breached a legal duty owed to the plaintiff (the person suing). Here, JUUL Labs has a duty to make its product as safe as possible, to warn users of known health risks, and to avoid selling a potentially dangerous product to people who might be more vulnerable or susceptible to risks related to use of the product. Different plaintiffs allege that JUUL Labs breached these duties in different ways, including by:

  • failing to sufficiently warn users of the dangers of JUUL®, including how much nicotine the products deliver to users
  • creating advertising campaigns that would appeal to teens and adolescents
  • failing to effectively prevent the sale of its e-cigarettes to underage users, and
  • failing to properly test the long-term health effects of its e-cigarettes.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers are sure to take the position that some of these arguments also apply to manufacturers other than Juul Labs.

Intentional Misrepresentation

    Also known as "fraud" or "fraudulent misrepresentation," this legal theory focuses on the idea that JUUL Labs knew of the dangers associated with JUUL® and took active steps to hide those risks from consumers, by:

    • representing that JUUL® was not harmful
    • not disclosing gaps in safety testing
    • failing to warn consumers of potential health risks associated with JUUL® and nicotine consumption
    • misleading consumers about nicotine levels in JUUL® as compared to traditional cigarettes, and
    • overstating therapeutic benefits of JUUL® use.

    Strict Products Liability

      Many legal theories require certain kinds of conduct on the part of the defendant (carelessness in a negligence claim, or deception in an intentional misrepresentation claim, for example).

      With strict products liability, it doesn’t matter what the defendant did or didn't do. All that matters is that the product was defective, and that this defect caused harm. Arguments related to the defective nature of JUUL® include:

      • JUUL Labs failed to properly warn consumers of the risks of using JUUL® products
      • the company failed to provide adequate instructions for safe use of the products, and
      • a nicotine delivery system that provides unsafe levels of nicotine to users is unreasonably dangerous.

      Damages Potentially Recoverable Against E-Cigarette Makers

      The amount of compensable losses ("damages") that a potential plaintiff can recover from JUUL Labs or another e-cigarette manufacturer will depend on many factors, including the nature and extent of the person's injuries. Typically, the range of damages will include:

      One of the hurdles to collecting damages in a personal injury case is proving that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, what if a plaintiff claims having suffered a stroke and lung problems as a result of JUUL® use but smoked traditional cigarettes for over 20 years before ever using JUUL®? Complicating factors like these are a big reason why some lawyers might only take clients who used JUUL® or a similar vaping product, with no history of using traditional cigarettes.

      A related complication can arise when the plaintiff has a preexisting medical condition that may have been aggravated or made worse by vaping/e-cigarette use. For example, the plaintiff might have a chronic condition like ephysema (or the plaintiff might develop a coronavirus infection before or during the JUUL®/vaping lawsuit). Causation issues aside, the biggest difficulty comes when trying to prove your damages (including "pain and suffering"). It’s hard enough to calculate these losses when there is no pre-existing condition. But when the earlier condition is aggravated by or is very similar to the harm resulting from the defendant's wrongdoing, the task becomes even more challenging.

      If you think you might have a health problem linked to use of JUUL® or another e-cigarette, it may make sense to discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer. Learn how to find the right attorney for you and your JUUL®/vaping case.

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