SAN FRANCISCO — An investor in e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs Inc. filed a shareholder derivative and minority shareholder class action lawsuit in California state court on Jan. 6, alleging that certain of the company’s current and former executive officers and directors have breached their fiduciary duty and were unjustly enriched at the expense of minority shareholders through their management of the company (Daniel Grove v. Adam Bowen, et al., No. CGC-20-582059, Calif. Super., San Francisco Co.).
SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Judge William H. Orrick III of the Northern District of California on Dec. 20 appointed co-lead counsel and steering committee members for the multidistrict litigation against Juul Labs Inc., which is accused of deceptively marketing its e-cigarette products to children (Bradley Colgate v. Juul Labs, Inc., No. 19-2913, N.D. Calif).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 2 announced a new policy that will prohibit the sale of some flavored e-cigarette products, including fruit and mint flavors, that it says are attractive to minors and have led to the “epidemic levels” of use among children.
TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 27 reversed a lower court’s grant of a motion to set aside dismissal in an Engle progeny tobacco lawsuit that was originally dismissed due to the plaintiff’s failure to timely pay a transfer fee after venue was transferred, noting that another appellate panel had earlier affirmed the previous judge’s denial of the motion (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. v. Thomas Howard, No. 2D19-267, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 19199).
TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 27 affirmed a $21 million judgment in an Engle progeny case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc., rejecting the companies’ arguments that the trial court made “multiple evidentiary and instructional errors” (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. v. Faye Theis, No. 2D18-3348, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 19163).
LAKELAND, Fla. — The Second District Florida Court of Appeal on Dec. 18 reversed a defense verdict in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and remanded the case for a new trial, saying the trial court erred in not directing a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on the tobacco company’s statute of limitations defense (Angela Sue Durrance v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2D17-2009, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 10026).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts jury returned a defense verdict Dec. 20 in a case involving a man who developed lung cancer decades after he stopped using tobacco products (Jonathan Main v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 1684CV03883, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Oral arguments were held Dec. 10 in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in a dispute in which R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. maintains that eight “otherwise qualified” jurors were unfairly stricken for their opinion that smokers “bear some responsibility for their choices” (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Jacqueline Burgess, Personal Representative of the Estate of Johnny Burgess, No. 4D18-3014, Fla. App., 4th Dist.).
States and government officials continue to seek to combat the effects of e-cigarette use, particularly among minors, through litigation and legislative orders.
BOSTON — A Massachusetts jury heard ongoing testimony Dec 12 after being told by plaintiff in opening statements that tobacco companies designed their products to be addictive The two defendants told the jury that a man’s lung cancer likely did not arise from tobacco use and that they did not target minors (Jonathan Main v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 1684CV03883, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A trial court erred in denying a tobacco company’s motion for directed verdict in a case that ultimately resulted in a $4 million jury verdict for the representative of a deceased smoker, a Florida appellate panel ruled Nov. 27, finding that the original suit, filed in the decedent’s name after he had died, was a legal “nullity” and that the representative’s amended complaint was time-barred under the statute of limitations (Philip Morris v. Jo E. Freeman, No. 1D18-2070, Fla. App., 1st Dis., 2019 Fla. App.LEXIS 17864).
LAKELAND, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 6 affirmed a $24 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., rejecting the tobacco company’s arguments on appeal that the jury should have been instructed to determine whether the smoker suffered from a disease that would qualify him as a member of the Engle class and that the punitive damages were excessive (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Rosemarie C. Graffeo, No. 2D18-4007, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 18175).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 10 rejected arguments by an e-cigarette manufacturer and an industry trade group that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration violated the Tobacco Control Act and infringed on their First Amendment rights by creating a difficult pathway to premarket authorization and prohibiting free sample distribution of vaping products (Nicopure Labs LLC and Right To Be Smoke-Free Coalition v. Food & Drug Administration, et al., No. 17-5196, D.C. Cir.).
MIAMI — A Florida appellate panel on Nov. 27 upheld a $1 million verdict for noneconomic damages against Philip Morris USA Inc. in an Engle progeny suit but partially reversed a trial court’s order as to a new trial on punitive damages, clearing the way for the widow of a longtime smoker to seek punitive damages for both intentional and nonintentional tort claims (Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Stefanny Sommers, etc., Nos. 3D18-908 & 3D18-228, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 17898).
SALT LAKE CITY — A excess insurer on Dec. 2 filed an amended complaint against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (JLI) seeking a Utah federal court’s declaration that a $5 million liability policy is null and void because of alleged misrepresentations made about the discontinuance of candy-flavored vaping pods and about class actions by injured users (Prime Insurance Company v. Juul Labs, Inc., No. 19-925, D. Utah).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 6 affirmed a $13.5 million jury verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., rejecting without discussion the tobacco company’s arguments that changes in witness testimony from deposition to trial and the judge’s jury instructions before the punitive damages phase constituted reversible error (Margaret Brown v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 5D18-1630, Fla. App., 5th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 18125).
SAN FRANCISCO — A former executive for Juul Labs Inc. who alleges that he was fired for raising concerns about the company knowingly distributing 1 million contaminated tobacco pods must settle his claims through arbitration, the company tells a California federal judge in a Nov. 27 motion to compel arbitration (Siddharth Breja v. Juul Labs Inc., No. 19-7148, N.D. Calif.).
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A shareholder sued a manufacturer of cigarettes and smokeless products on Dec. 2 in New York federal court, alleging that the company and two of its senior executives violated federal securities laws by failing to conduct sufficient due diligence before making a nearly $13 billion investment in e-vapor products manufacturer JUUL Labs Inc. (Patrick F. Cipolla v. Altria Group Inc., et al., No. 19-6774, E.D. N.Y.).
The attorney general of New York on Nov. 19 sued Juul Labs Inc. (JLI) in a state court, alleging that the e-cigarette manufacturer violated state law in its marketing and sales of vaping products to minors, one day after the attorney general of California announced a similar lawsuit (Attorney General of New York v. Juul Labs Inc., No. N/A, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.; California v. Juul Labs, Inc, et al., No. RG19043543, Calif. Super., Alameda Co.).
MIAMI — A Florida jury on Nov. 12 added $27.5 million in punitive damages to a previous $15 million award for a woman’s tobacco-related lung cancer (Kenneth Gloger v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2011-CA-23377, Fla. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.