Juul contaminated pods lawsuit
In October 2019, Siddharth Breja, a former Juul executive, filed a lawsuit against the e-cig manufacturer, alleging that the company shipped out 1 million pods despite being fully aware they were contaminated. Although the contaminant has not been disclosed, Juul’s former vice president of global finance claims he has been retaliated against and laid off immediately after he raised concerns that the contaminated shipment had to be recalled. The company refused to pull the product from the market or even just issue a public health and safety notice to consumers, suggesting that it would cost the brand nearly $40 billion in lost sales.
Breja depicted Juul’s ex-CEO Kevin Burns as an unscrupulous individual motivated by profits alone who tried to deceive customers and regulators many times already. Just like other Big Tobacco companies did in the past, the manager allegedly ran the company recklessly and without care for customer’s health, describing them as clueless “drunkards” who weren’t able to “notice the quality of our pods.” The company, however, strongly rejects all Breja’s accusations, stating that they are “baseless.”
E-cigarettes and lung damage
Used by nearly 2.5 million Americans since their launch in 2007, e-cigarettes have been associated with several serious health risks. One of the most outstanding ones is an irreversible lung condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lungs” that causes permanent scarring of the lung tissue, chronic shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing.
A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that a substance known as diacetyl was contained in three-quarters of e-cig flavors and liquids. Diacetyl was known by the U.S. regulatory authorities already, since it was used in popcorn factories, causing countless cases of this severe lung conditions in workers who were exposed to it (hence the name “popcorn lungs”). Although Juul claims that diacetyl is not among the ingredients of its pods, very little is known about the contaminant that purportedly spoiled its latest shipments.
The outbreak of vape-associated lung injuries
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a multistate investigation regarding a serious outbreak of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injuries (EVALI) across several states and counties. Right now, the American health agency has not been able to determine which chemicals can be responsible for this epidemic, but as of October 29, 2019, a total of 1,888 cases have been reported, including 37 death cases. Most of these cases involved products that contained THC (a psychoactive substance found in cannabis extracts) that were sold in the black market, but the cause of the damage has yet to be identified. A study from Yale highlighted how Juul’s products might contain many unlisted ingredients such as odorless alcoholic solvents, which may, or may not, be responsible for health damage.
Other risks associated with vaping
In the recent past, a number of people resorted to litigation in the United States after they got injured by defective e-cigarette devices that exploded. According to some reports, in 2016 alone, a total of 34 e-cigarettes explosions was counted in Colorado, resulting in 27 people being injured and maimed. The battery of e-cigarettes may sometimes overheat when plugged to different USB ports, or, if defective, the highly flammable electrolyte fluid may leak, causing the device to rocket across the place, conflagrate, and set people and things to fire.
Back in 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Ries was awarded a $1.9 million compensation after she filed a product liability suit against an e-cig manufacturer. The woman had suffered second-degree chemical burns on her legs, hand, and back.
Juul and the undisclosed nicotine addiction risk
Despite the fact that Juul eventually recalled many fruity or sweet-based flavored liquids, many plaintiffs accused the company of willfully encouraging young people to use its products. Since the vapes are colorful and appealing devices that can be easily charged on a laptop, it’s easy to understand how they can attract many youths and be used well beyond the originally intended adult-only use. Juul also voluntarily established an online community and social media culture that encourages young people to use its products.
Juul e-cigarettes are also allegedly unsafe for non-smokers since they can deliver a high amount of nicotine into a person’s bloodstream at a much quicker pace than a traditional cigarette. The risk of addiction is, therefore, substantial, and represents a serious health threat especially in teens and adolescents. Juul’s marketing campaign was so successful, that in 2018 3.6 million middle and high school students were actively using vapes.
Current status of the legal proceedings
Attorney and law firms across the country are pursuing Juul cases on behalf of youths who experienced nicotine addiction as well as people who suffered chronic lung damage, popcorn lungs or other vaping-related injuries. Plaintiffs allege that Juul failed to warn the public about the risks associated with the use of its products, including addiction and life-threatening lung conditions. The company is also accused of disseminating misleading, deceitful, or plainly false information in its advertising campaigns, website, and social media. Although so far no mass tort litigation has been centralized yet, as the number of lawsuits filed keeps increasing, there’s a chance that a larger civil action may ensue.
- Joseph G. Allen, et al. Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510185
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Vaporizers, E-Cigarettes, and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). Accessed February 2017
- Leticia Miranda Oct 30, 2019. New lawsuit alleges Juul sold 1 million contaminated pods. NBC News
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (October 31, 2019). Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products.