- The Polk County School Board on Tuesday evening unanimously voted to join a lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul
- The lawsuit contends that the company did little to prevent underage individuals from purchasing and using vaping products. Any settlement or winnings would be predicated on future damages
- In a separate lawsuit this week, Juul agreed to pay $438.5 million in a deal with 34 states over how the company promoted its products
The Polk County School District, which encompasses Lakeland and Winter Haven, plans to join nearly 1,300 school districts across America in a class-action tort lawsuit against electronic cigarette company Juul.
The lawsuit contends that the company did little to prevent underage students and children from obtaining vaping materials, including vape pens and e-cigarettes. School board leaders stated that the lawsuit is more in the line of future damages, as in what it will cost the district to prevent vaping in schools, proper disciplinary action in response to vaping in schools, and to create prevention programs.
On Tuesday evening, school board members unanimously agreed to join the suit. Attorneys in the case speculate that a potential settlement could reach hundreds of millions.
“The school board has been invited to participate in a class-action lawsuit against Juul, the company largely responsible for the proliferation of vaping,” said School Board Attorney Wes Bridges. “There are other litigations that are in the pipeline, though this appears the largest one and the one that is farthest ahead in the legal process.”
The case was presented to the school board on a contingency fee basis. Should the lawsuit be decided in favor of the consortium of school districts, the lawyers would receive 25 percent of the winnings, while the remaining 75 percent would be split among the 1,300 school districts involved in the suit.
If the case continues on through June of 2023, Bridges stated that the contingency fee would jump from 25 percent to 30 percent.
“This is one of those “sign-and-drive” deals,” continued Bridges. “If you wish to participate, we’ll sign and they’ll do all the work. If they’re successful, one day we’ll get a check or a series of checks. If they are not successful, you owe nothing.”
The state Department of Health estimates that 22 percent of high school students in Florida regularly vape.
“From my seat, I would encourage the participation,” Polk County Superintendent Frederick Heid said. “We deal with vaping on a daily basis. We have heard from various organizations that have presented before us. I would like to see us participate with the understanding that any funding and revenue, if any, would be addressed to align with those initiatives.”
Heid, calling the lawsuit a unique opportunity, recommended an investment into anti-vaping detection devices, the incorporation of curriculum strategies, and further preventative measures. Heid additionally stated that the number one item confiscated during random school sweeps are vapes and e-cigarettes.
In a separate legal case on Wednesday, Juul agreed to pay almost $500 million as part of a deal with 34 states over how it promoted its vaping devices.
The $438.5 million preliminary deal with Juul Labs concludes a two-year probe into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales activities. In addition to the financial conditions, the settlement would require Juul to adhere to a series of rigorous legal requirements severely restricting its marketing and sales tactics.