Parties in JUUL Marketing Case Debate Discovery

The parties in a consolidated Juul Labs marketing case filed a joint letter on Wednesday in accordance with a Case Management Order to discuss class representative discovery issues, and update the court about their disagreements on discovery issues. The parties reportedly “engaged in multiple good faith meet-and-confers” before reaching their resolution and submitting petitions on some issues for the court’s consideration. The case, filed in 2019, alleges that JUUL and others breached laws by marketing cigarette products to children. 

Juul, Altria, Philip Morris USA, Inc, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, and the other defendants argued that all of the named plaintiffs should be deposed in “a reasonable timeframe.” The letter said that “Defendants do not object to reasonable sequencing, but simply request that each Named Plaintiff be deposed at a mutually convenient time before the class certification motion deadline of March 17, 2021,” and said it is critical that the parties know quickly “if there is a problem with a class representative” They argued that delaying the depositions further would risk blurred or faded memories and compromise the process. 

The defendants said in their position that all plaintiffs should be required to respond to basic discovery, both the 107 class representatives named in the Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint and the 25 who were not listed but are named in other multidistrict litigation cases. They argued that discovery from these 25 class representatives is “plainly appropriate” because they are a party, and should be required to complete discovery. 

The plaintiffs said the “proposed class representatives for the bellwether claims … have already agreed to fully respond to written discovery, produce documents, and sit for depositions,” and that other class representatives named in the complaint agreed to complete plaintiff fact sheets. They said, however, that the defendants “ignore these facts and demand additional discovery,” specifically deposing all class representatives before March 2021, instead of just the bellwether representatives who are set for class certification and trial in early 2022. 

According to the plaintiffs, “the discovery Defendants seek is premature, unduly burdensome, inefficient, and out of proportion to the needs of this case at this time.” They claimed the defendants would have information from the fact sheets from at least 100 class members, and that in class action suits the defendant can make typicality arguments “without taking depositions of scores of class members.” 

The letter was signed and submitted by counsel from Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the firm that represents Juul Labs, Inc. and serves as lead defense liaison counsel. Earlier this month, the firm sent another letter to the judge regarding discovery issues.