A man from Connecticut has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs, claiming the manufacturer of the e-cigarette is responsible for the massive stroke he suffered, after being addicted to the company’s products through his teenage years. The case is the first medical lawsuit the e-cigarette enterprise faces of this magnitude.
The claimant in question, according to the lawsuit, is 22-year-old Maxwell Berger who developed an addiction to JUUL products when he was rounding out high school in the summer of 2015. By 2017, Berger was consuming whiffs of his JUUL as often as every 10 minutes, burning through two cartridges each day.
By July of that year, Berger was struck by a colossal hemorrhagic stroke, causing him to undergo three brain surgeries, and spent more than 100 days in the hospital. The stroke left him almost completely incapacitated with ‘catastrophic and permanent’ injuries, including speech impairment and left side paralysis, coupled with a 50 percent loss of vision in both eyes.
The Claims Berger’s Reps Have
The law firm representing Berger filed the suit in the California Superior Court for San Francisco County.
The firm accused the company, JUUL, of wrongful conduct leading to Berger’s injuries. Some of the specific charges that accompanied the suit include, a deliberate misrepresentation of the products and the risks involved in using them, negligence in selling and promoting to young persons under the age of 26 and fraudulent concealment. With a look equivalent to that of a USB stick, this battery-powered device transforms a liquid derivative of nicotine into vapor for inhalation.
Berger is presented as one of a large number of misled teens who yielded to JUUL’s fervid marketing that indicated JUUL was healthier than traditional tobacco. The suit claims that when Berger first tried it, the device had already been widely used by his high school peers.
Within a few weeks, he developed a keen addiction to nicotine and would often take restroom breaks during family dinners to puff from his JUUL e-cigarette device.
Prior information on the company’s website stated that each cartridge (pod), consists of the same measure of nicotine that’s obtainable in a cigarette pack. However, that information has been erased from its website.
Contradictions between the Company and the Claims
According to Ted Kwong, spokesman for the company, speaking to Forbes, JUUL was created with the sole intention of being a substitute to cigarettes, to be used by adult smokers only. “We don’t expect non-nicotine users, mainly those in the youth bracket, to ever give our product a try.
That’s why we have started a combative action plan to deal with underage use, as it is in steep contrast to our mission. To the extent these cases allege differently, they are without merit, and we will defend what we stand for all through this process.”
The line of argument that JUUL, a San Francisco-based company, knowingly misled consumers via its marketing strategy, mirrors other filed lawsuits that have taken the same position against the company.
There are currently seven federal cases against JUUL in states including California, Alabama, New York and Florida. Five of those cases involve teen claimants and one of the lawsuits alleges that a 15-year-old developed seizures from using JUUL, although others have no claims beyond holding the company culpable for their addiction to nicotine.
This lawsuit, brought by Berger against JUUL, is the most substantial accusation of medical harm against the company. It further shows that other claims of severe health issues from the 4-year-old company could follow, as its presence continues to increase. Also, the extraordinary growth and progress of the company, has led it to capture more than two-thirds of the e-cigarette market share, per Nielsen.
An Established Pattern?
Berger’s background story in the filed complaint is all too similar to the other claimants in the suits mentioned above – if they had been aware of the truth about JUUL, they wouldn’t have contemplated using it.
Instead, the complaint states that JUUL “preyed on youth,” using advertisements of youthful models that gave off a sense of collective cool and oozed sex appeal.
The lawsuit further states that “the teen vaping was by design, and not by accident,” with the argument that the company took advantage of a loophole to penetrate the market before the FDA notably placed some rules on e-cigarettes.
“It is our genuine hope that JUUL accepts responsibility for its conduct in deliberately luring and targeting young people to make use of its very dangerous products and that they are held culpable for fair and reasonable compensation due this young man,” said Lieff Cabraser attorney, Sarah London, representing Berger.
Lieff Cabraser before this time, secured a $27 million award for a Florida smoker against Philip Morris, the tobacco wing of Altria. Also, last December, Altria bought a stake in JUUL totaling 35 percent and added a $38 billion valuation to the latter.
Berger’s case, along with any others, should they get filed, could face consolidation, or be brought together with these suits, and assigned to one judge.
A study conducted recently has shown a connection between stroke and the use of e-cigarettes. Analysts from the University Of Kansas School Of Medicine applied data from a survey of 400,000 individuals by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that in comparison to non-users, those who use e-cigarettes stand a 71 percent risk of suffering a stroke.
This study arrives at a time when the scientific findings and conclusions on e-cigarettes have been very contentious, much like the studies on tobacco in the past. Other research that connects vaping to heart attack, has been a source of contention between two researchers on the subject of tobacco.
Coming to Terms With Research
Amid the escalating pressure over its part in the tremendous rise of vaping by teens, JUUL included a label warning about the dangers of nicotine use on its products. JUUL further disclosed in November, that it was temporarily halting the sales of its flavored pods in retail stores until they could prove only twenty-one and older individuals were allowed in the store.
This was followed by a shutdown of its Instagram and Facebook accounts. But critics are of the view that it’s a move that’s late in coming. A Center for Disease Control report established that the number of high schoolers who had used JUUL’s product, surged from 11.7 percent in 2017 to 20.8 percent in 2018. “The devastation was already completed in Berger’s life. Thus, it was too late for him,” stated the complaint, adding that JUUL still has not divulged the health hazards its products obviously carry.
If you’ve gone through a similar situation or have or are currently using JUUL products, contact Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton today at 800-568-5330.
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