8 Juul, Altria Antitrust Related by Calif. Judge

In an order filed May 7, Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California formally relating 8 cases similarly alleging that Juul and Altria entered into an anticompetitive agreement. The cases raise “similar claims based on the same alleged antitrust conduct.”

The eight cases were generally brought by different plaintiffs. All plaintiffs were represented by different law firms, except for two plaintiffs who were represented by the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, which specializes in antitrust claims.

The lowest-numbered case, Reece v. Altria Group, will be the lead case in the relation. Reece, the plaintiff, alleged that “Altria’s investment in JUUL and its exit from the market not only eliminated its existing e-cigarette product but also, through the Non-Compete, halted its ongoing innovation efforts toward developing a new and improved portfolio of products. Thus, consumers lost the benefit of current and future head-to-head competition between Altria and JUUL, and between Altria and other competitors.

Judge Orrick added that the plaintiffs similarly agreed that their cases should not be consolidated with a large multidistrict litigation titled In re: Juul Labs, Inc., Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation. That case concerns allegations that Juul initially sold its vaping products marketed to help customers cease smoking; the plaintiffs stated Juul knew its products were instead facilitating addiction to nicotine. Judge Orrick, who also oversees the multidistrict litigation, did not rule on whether the antitrust cases should relate to the marketing case, but will do so at a later time.

The consolidated suits join a Federal Trade Commission complaint brought in April. Juul is also frequently sued by individuals, municipalities, and school districts.

In the antitrust cases, Juul and Altria are repesented by Wilkonson Walsh and Munger Tolles & Olson.