If you've decided to file a lawsuit over health problems caused by e-cigarettes—including JUUL® or some other vaping/e-cigarette product—you're probably wondering about the value of your case. How do you put a dollar figure on harm resulting from unreasonably dangerous (or deceptively marketed) products like these? What specific losses will be covered in a settlement or court award over lung disease, respiratory illness, or some other health problem tied to vaping or e-cigarette use?
As with any injury-related case, figuring out the value of a claim over the safety of JUUL® or a similar product starts with an understanding of the nature and extent of the injured person's "damages," which is a legal term that refers to compensation for losses suffered by that person (the plaintiff). Damages are paid by the defendant in the lawsuit. (In these vaping-related cases, the defendant is usually an e-cigarette manufacturer like Juul Labs Inc., but others in the supply chain may also share some measure of liability.) Whether your vaping/e-cigarette case settles out of court or you receive a judgment in your favor after a trial, the money you receive is considered damages. (Learn more about the basics of damages and compensation in a personal injury case.)
Let's look at some common categories of damages, and how each might affect the value of your e-cigarette lawsuit.
As a plaintiff, if you win or settle your case, your damages include compensation for:
Note that if the full extent and impact of your medical complications isn't clear, it's probably not in your best interest to accept an injury settlement offer. Your attorney will almost certainly want to wait until both of you have a clear picture of this component of your damages, because once you accept an injury settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn that health problems caused by your use of e-cigarettes are worse than you first thought.
Vaping/E-Cigarette Lawsuits and Coronavirus: The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted court cases over the safety of e-cigarette products. In April of 2020, the plaintiffs in at least one ongoing federal lawsuit filed against Juul Labs, Inc. (and Altria Group Inc., which recently purchased a 35-percent stake in Juul Labs, Inc.) added allegations that JUUL® users are at enhanced risk of suffering more severe complications if they end up contracting the coronavirus. But if you are actually infected with coronavirus at any point before or during your JUUL®/vaping lawsuit, you're likely to face an extra set of challenges in terms of causation, owing to the similarities in harm caused by the coronavirus and vaping. Get more details on the impact of coronavirus on injury cases involving respiratory illness.
If your respiratory illness or other health issues have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages in a claim over e-cigarettes. Specifically, you are entitled to compensation for any income you've already lost—and for income you would have earned in the future but now won't—due to your health issues. In "legalese," an award based on future income is characterized as compensation for the injured person's "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity."
While economic losses like medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate, "pain and suffering" isn't so easy to quantify. But this category of damages plays a big part in determining how much you can expect to receive in an injury case, and can be a crucial component of a vaping lawsuit. Pain and suffering is often broken down into two types:
(Learn more about pain and suffering in a personal injury case.)
When you file a lawsuit over harm caused by e-cigarette products like JUUL®, you're asking the defendant to compensate you for your damages, but you're also taking on the legal obligation to keep those damages to a reasonable minimum. The law in most states expects injury claimants to minimize or "mitigate" the financial impact of the harm caused by the defendant's alleged wrongdoing. For example, if Juul Labs Inc. (or another defendant) can successfully argue that you failed to get necessary medical treatment when you first began experiencing respiratory problems, and that the delay caused your condition to further deteriorate, your damages award might be significantly reduced. This is one of many reasons why it's important to have an experienced lawyer on your side.