Lawsuit Accuses JUUL of Violating Federal Law by Marketing to Teens

A new lawsuit alleges that JUUL Labs Inc. illegally underplays the dangers of its product to make it more appealing to kids.

A Little Background First

Experts have warned in recent years that e-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco use for teens. The problem has become so dire that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now says there is an “epidemic” of youth smoking. One of the most popular vaping devices among young people is JUUL, a small device that looks like a USB device, which includes a pod for liquid nicotine. [1]

The Lawsuit

Filed April 15, the lawsuit names Juul, it’s parent company Altria Group Inc., and Philip Morris USA Inc. as defendants. It was brought by the parents of a 15-year-old girl from Sarasota, Florida, who they say became addicted to nicotine through her JUUL use. The companies are accused in the suit of fraud and deceptive trade practices, among other things.

A lawyer for the girl’s parents said his clients filed the lawsuit as a putative class action on behalf of other children and parents facing similar circumstances. He pointed out that data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nearly 5 million middle and high school students were current users of a tobacco product in 2018. Much of the problem can be attributed to the popularity of JUUL among younger vapers, “creating an entirely new generation of nicotine addiction.”

JUUL e-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine and its pods have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. [2]

“It really is tragic. For decades the public health community worked against the powerful tobacco industry to reduce youth smoking. … That entire trend is now being reversed. … For the first time in decades, youth smoking of regular combustive cigarettes is up.” [1]

The lawsuit notes that Altria, which owns tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, recently purchased a 35% stake in JUUL after the e-cigarette maker vowed not to market its products to young people. But the agreement instead provides more shelf space for JUUL products and places them in predominant areas of retailers where teens can see them. [2]

Read: FDA: E-Cigarette Makers JUUL, Altria Failing to Reduce Youth Vaping

Another lawyer for the girl’s parents said:

“JUUL has captured a broad segment of the adolescent and teenage market by applying the same techniques historically used by cigarette makers.

The companies tell regulators they are not marketing to that vulnerable age group while they simultaneously and knowingly created a massive increase in youth nicotine addiction.”

Sources:

[1] Law.com

[2] UPI

Judge Cancels Roundup Trials, Brings in ‘Neutral Third Party’ for Resolution

Thousands of cancer patients are suing Monsanto alleging their exposure to the company’s Roundup herbicide caused their illnesses. This is all taking spotlight in court, where recently U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria officially ordered Bayer AG and lawyers (who represent the mass of cancer patients) into mediation to seek a settlement.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in June 2018, lost the first of 2 trials in unanimous jury verdicts that led to large damage awards against the company.

In his order, Chhabria wrote:

“The parties should propose a mediator in their case management statement; if they cannot agree, the Court will appoint someone.”

Bayer said it would comply with the order but still planned to defend the safety of Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides in court.

A third trial had been slated to begin May 20. [2]

Chhabria said he would rather see the cases organized in the multidistrict litigation before him, which would determine which lawsuits should be dismissed, which should be sent to state courts, and which cases should be sent back to where they were originally filed for trials in federal court.

Analysts predict the settlement could top $5 billion. The confidential nature of mediation would mean that Bayer manages to resolve the litigation without multimillion-dollar damning headlines the first 2 trials produced.

Thomas G. Rohback, a New York trial attorney, said:

“The confidentiality – which is also quite common – could help Bayer pay a settlement amount without making that public. Of course, the key is whether the parties can reach an agreement.”

Chhabria scheduled a meeting for May 22 to discuss the mediation efforts and possibly set a new date for the canceled trial.

Sources:

[1] U.S. Right to Know

[2] The Detroit News

Judge OK’s Controversial Evidence in Roundup-Herbicide Trials

There are numerous pending lawsuits revolving around Bayer AG and an herbicide product known as Roundup – with claims that the herbicide is causing cancer. Well, Bayer AG suffered a blow January 28 when a federal judge tentatively agreed to allow controversial evidence the company had hoped to exclude from upcoming trials.

At a hearing in San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said his decision was “probably most disappointing for Monsanto.” (In 2016, Bayer and Monsanto merged for a whopping $66 billion.)

Bayer insists that glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup that is alleged to cause cancer, is safe and that decades of independent studies back that claim.

Read: Monsanto “Deliberately Covered up Data” Proving Glyphosate is Cancerous for 4 Decades

Chhabria ruled that plaintiffs could include some of Monsanto’s allegedly ghost-written studies and attempts to influence the findings of scientists and regulators during the first phase of upcoming trials. The judge said that documents which showed the company taking a position on the science or a study during the first phase were “super relevant.”

On January 3, Chhabria issued an order limiting evidence of corporate misconduct. The move lifted Bayer’s shares nearly 7% and made the company optimistic that Chhabria would take a harder line on similar damning evidence. At the time, Bayer called such evidence a “sideshow” intended to distract jurors from scientific evidence.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that evidence of corporate misconduct was integral to proving the company’s scientific claims are skewed in favor of Monsanto (now Bayer).

Read: EPA Official Accused of Helping Monsanto “Kill” Glyphosate-Cancer Link

Chhabria agreed, saying the line between scientific evidence and corporate misconduct was a murky one and questioned whether it would be fair for the jury not to hear about Monsanto’s alleged attempts to influence scientists.

The parties agreed to exclude other internal documents, including internal e-mails on Monsanto employees discussing lobbying efforts, from the initial trial phase. However, that evidence could come into play if glyphosate is found to have caused plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeds to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

The order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is set for trial on February 25, and 2 other upcoming cases. Of the more than 9,300 Roundup lawsuits pending nationwide, 620 of them are before Chhabria.

In August, a jury awarded former school groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson $289 million in a similar case, sending Bayer shares tumbling. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say corporate misconduct evidence was crucial to that decision.

Sources:

Reuters

Judge Upholds Monsanto Roundup-Cancer Verdict but Cuts Award to $78.5 Million

A California judge on October 22 upheld a San Francisco jury’s verdict finding that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused a former school groundskeeper’s cancer, but slashed the amount of money to be paid from $289 million to just over $78 million. [1]

In August, a jury awarded Dewayne Johnson $250 million in punitive damages to punish Monsanto (now Bayer), and $39 million in compensatory damages to cover Johnson’s lost income, as well as pain and suffering.

On October 10, Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued a tentative ruling granting Monsanto’s request for a judgment notwithstanding verdict, or a JNOV. It appeared at the time that the tide had turned in favor of the agritech giant, as a JNOV is the equivalent of a judge in a civil case overruling a jury’s decision.

Read: 17 Scientists Speak Out: Monsanto’s Roundup is Causing Cancer

Bolanos said in her tentative ruling that Johnson “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages.” Johnson risked losing the entire $250 million punitive award against Monsanto.

Some jurors were so disturbed by Bolanos’ tentative ruling that they wrote the judge letters, pleading with her to uphold the verdict.

Attorneys on both sides were given the opportunity to respond and argue their cases, and on October 22, Bolanos reversed her tentative ruling and denied Monsanto’s request for a JNOV.

However, the Judge reduced the amount of money that Johnson will receive from $289 million to about $78 million.

Bolanos’ reason for this, she said, was that she felt the punitive award was too high and needed to closely mirror Johnson’s $39 million compensatory award.

She wrote in her ruling:

“In enforcing due process limits, the court does not sit as a replacement for the jury but only as a check on arbitrary awards.

The punitive damages award must be constitutionally reduced to the maximum allowed by due process in this case – $39,253,209.35 – equal to the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the jury based on its findings of harm to the plaintiff.”

Monsanto also sought a new trial on the punitive damages – a request Bolanos said she would reject if Johnson agreed to the smaller punitive award. If he turns his nose up at the deal, a new trial will take place.

Read: Roundup Chemicals Linked to Cancer of the Lymph System

Johnson has until December 7 to decide which direction he wants to go. His spokeswoman, Diana McKinley, said he and his attorneys are weighing their options and hadn’t made a final decision. [2]

“Although we believe a reduction in punitive damages was unwarranted and we are weighing the options, we are pleased the court did not disturb the verdict.”

Johnson’s case was the first Roundup-related lawsuit against Monsanto to go to trial. An additional 8,700 plaintiffs are waiting in the wings, all of them alleging that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, caused them cancer. Multiply Johnson’s award by that number and Bayer is facing a liability of $680 billion. [3]

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] NBC News

[3] NPR

Judge Could Overturn $289 Million Verdict in Monsanto Roundup Case

In August, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who alleged that exposure to Roundup caused his cancer. Now, the judge in the case is considering slashing how much the dying man actually receives. [1]

DeWayne Johnson won the landmark case against Monsanto (now Bayer), claiming that a concentrated version of Roundup herbicide caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson’s lawsuit against the company was the first of more than 4,000 others waiting to go to trial. In handing down the massive award, jurors agreed with Johnson’s allegations that Monsanto failed to warn the public about Roundup’s cancer risks.

Of the $289 million, $250 million was awarded for punitive damages, while the remaining nearly-$39 million was awarded for compensatory damages, including Johnson’s lost income, and pain and suffering.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos made a tentative ruling on October 10 that could overturn the $250 in punitive damages and prompt a new trial.

In the ruling, Bolanos said Johnson “presented no clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression to support an award of punitive damages,” tentatively granting Monsanto’s request for a judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNV). This indicates that the judge plans on overturning the jury’s decision.

Jurors in the case are urging Bolanos to let the award stand. [2]

In a letter to the judge, juror Gary Kitahata wrote:

“You may not have been convinced by the evidence, but we were. I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the 6 weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial.”

Another juror, Robert Howard, told the judge in a letter that the possibility that “our unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system.”

Roundup contains a highly controversial weed-killing chemical called glyphosate, which has been at the center of scientific debate for years. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a wing of the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans. Monsanto fiercely fought against the classification.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the other hand, says glyphosate is safe. However, that decision has been called into question after it was revealed that an EPA official may have helped Monsanto “kill” a study linking glyphosate to cancer.

In 2017, California added glyphosate to its list of carcinogens under the state’s Proposition 65 law. Monsanto had sued the state in an effort to keep the chemical off the list but failed in its efforts.

Bolanos gave attorneys on both sides until October 19 to present responses before she makes a final decision.

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] San Francisco Chronicle

Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay $289 Million in World’s 1st Roundup Trial

A jury has awarded $250 million in punitive damages and nearly $40 million in compensatory damages to a former school groundskeeper who alleged in a lawsuit that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, caused him cancer. [1]

The plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson, was seeking $400 million in punitive damages and $39 million in compensatory damages from the biotech company, according to his attorney.

Johnson’s lawsuit was the world’s first Roundup case to go to trial. The August 10 ruling could set a huge precedent for the thousands of other cases facing Monsanto (now Bayer) that have been filed on behalf of victims or their loved ones. His case was the first to go to trial because doctors said he was near death. In California, where the trial took place, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials.

Read: Roundup Chemicals Linked to Cancer of the Lymph System

Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, said: [2]

“Monsanto made Roundup the oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they have caused have come home to roost. This won’t cure DeWayne Lee Johnson’s cancer, but it will send a strong message to the renegade company.”

Background

While working as a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco, Johnson, 46, applied a concentrated version of Roundup 20 to 30 times a year. [1]

On 2 separate occasions, Johnson was accidentally doused in large amounts of the herbicide, the first of which occurred in 2012. Two years later, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

About 80% of the dying man’s body is covered in lesions, which was the first sign to Johnson and his wife that something was terribly wrong.

Johnson’s doctors say he is unlikely to live past 2020, and his wife now works 2, 40-hour-per-week jobs to support her ailing husband and their 2 sons. [1] [2]

The Debate over Glyphosate

After 3 days of deliberation, the San Francisco Superior Court of California jury concluded that Monsanto failed to warn Johnson and the general public about the cancer risks associated with Roundup. [3]

Monsanto has always insisted that Roundup is safe for use, and railed against the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 assessment that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the other hand, has waffled on whether to consider glyphosate a carcinogen. After conducting its own review of the chemical in 2017, it concluded that glyphosate is likely not a carcinogen.

Read: EPA Official Accused of Helping Monsanto “Kill” Glyphosate-Cancer Link

However, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added glyphosate to its list of known carcinogens – a move that prompted Monsanto to file a lawsuit against the state, which it subsequently lost. [2]

In a statement, Monsanto said it would appeal the verdict. [3]

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews … support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer.”

We here at Natural Society wish Mr. Johnson and his family the best. We will continue to monitor Johnson’s case and the others awaiting trial and will keep you updated as things progress.

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] USA Today

[3] Reuters

Judge Green Lights Lawsuits Alleging Roundup-Cancer Link

A San Francisco judge ruled July 10, 2018 that hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused cancer may proceed. [1]

At the center of the debate is glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient found in Roundup and other herbicide products. Cancer patients and their families claim Monsanto knew of the carcinogenic nature of the chemical, but failed to warn U.S. buyers. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said there’s “rather weak” evidence the ingredient causes cancer, but the opinions of 3 experts linking glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma did not base their findings off of “junk science.”

Read: 17 Scientists Speak Out – Monsanto’s Roundup is Causing Cancer

Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge insists there is no connection between glyphosate and cancer. In the past, Monsanto sued California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for adding the Roundup ingredient to its list of cancer-causing chemicals.

In a statement, Partridge said:

“Moving forward, we will continue to defend these lawsuits with robust evidence that proves there is absolutely no connection between glyphosate and cancer. We have sympathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the science clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause.” [2]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has wrestled with whether or not to declare glyphosate a carcinogen. But, in 2017, it came to light that an EPA official named Jess Rowland colluded with Monsanto to kill a study linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – so I’m not sure how much of an actual struggle it is for the EPA to conclude glyphosate likely non-carcinogenic.

While the EPA may think glyphosate is unlikely to pose any real cancer-linked threat, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as “probably carcinogenic.” [1]

As of July 11, a trial involving claims that Roundup causes cancer has gone underway in San Francisco. In that case, a former school groundskeeper alleged that glyphosate caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In deciding that the approximately 400 cases he is handling can move forward, Judge Chhabria stated that it could be a “daunting challenge” to convince him to permit a jury to hear testimony that glyphosate was responsible for causing multiple cases of cancer. [2]

Sources:

[1] USA Today

[2] HealthDay