Parties in Juul Marketing Lawsuit Dispute How Bellwether Cases Should Be Heard

Both the plaintiffs and the defendants in a Juul Labs Inc. multi-district litigation lawsuit sent a letter to Northern District of California Judge William H. Orrick on Tuesday expressed their arguments for how the bellwether trials in the lawsuit should be heard, following instructions given by the court.  Juul asked for the cases to be tried separately, while the plaintiffs asked for them to be tried together. 

The plaintiffs in their letter argued that under procedural rules the six bellwether cases being considered should be tried together, and suggested that if the court wishes to do smaller trials it should divide the plaintiffs into groups either based on whether they are pursuing common law claims or statutory claims or separate the two claims from Florida residents from the others. 

Co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who submitted the letter, said that the court has the power to consolidate the lawsuits in order to lessen the burden and delay of trials, and that this is done frequently in multidistrict litigation matters. They said that the bellwether plaintiffs have “near identical” complaints, allege injury from the same conduct, and accuse the same defendants. Reportedly, each of the plaintiffs was a minor when they became addicted to Juul products. 

Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the bellwether actions each involve common questions about the nature and effect of the defendant’s marketing, including the design of Juul products, the warnings or lack of warnings on the product, and the defendant’s knowledge. 

In Juul’s letter, the company noted that these bellwether cases are the first personal injury trials, anywhere.  “Each case raises a host of variable substantive and temporal issues regarding alleged injuries, product use, marketing exposure, party conduct, reliance, and causation,” the defendant said. Juul claimed that the plaintiffs would not be able to meet the burden needed to obtain consolidation. 

To support trying the cases separately, Juul argued that joining the plaintiffs could lead to unfair prejudice against the plaintiff, “erode the integrity of and confidence in the verdicts or settlements, and hinder goals of the multidistrict litigation and the bellwether trials. The company asked the court to try the four cases separately, and requested an oral argument to present its position. 

Juul is represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP, which also serves as liaison counsel for the defendants. Keller Rohrback, Girard Sharp, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and Weitz & Luxenberg are co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Another case management conference in the matter will be held on July 16.