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Product Liability & Toxics Law News

Juul Hit With Suit Over Teen’s Death From Respiratory Injury

Oct. 15, 2019, 7:42 PM

Juul Labs Inc.'s electronic cigarettes and nicotine cartridges were a significant factor in causing an 18-year-old’s death more than a year ago, his mother says in what may be the first wrongful-death vaping suit.

Florida resident Daniel David Wakefield was exposed to Juul advertising in 2015 and “became intensely addicted” to the company’s nicotine products, the complaint says. His behavior changed dramatically, and he was hospitalized for three days within a year of starting to vape, it says. Then, in August 2018, after a day that included moving boxes, his father discovered him unresponsive. His death was attributed to “breathing complications,” the complaint says.

Wakefield’s mother, Lisa Marie Vail, filed the suit Oct. 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where Juul’s headquarters is located. Consolidated litigation over allegedly improper marketing to minors, including personal-injury suits, is pending there.

Recent reports of lung injuries, including 26 deaths as of Oct. 8, mostly involve patients who have used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some patients, however, report exclusively using nicotine vaping products, according to the CDC’s website.

Causes of Action: Strict product liability; negligence and/or gross negligence; negligent failure to recall; fraudulent concealment; conspiracy; negligent infliction of emotional distress; violation of California consumer-protection law; and wrongful death and survival.

Relief: The plaintiff seeks compensatory, punitive, and other damages.

Response: Juul didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Levin Simes Abrams LLP represents Vail.

The case is Vail v. Juul Labs, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:19-cv-06597, complaint 10/15/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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