Ogden, Provo school districts join lawsuit against Juul | Education
On June 17, the Ogden School District joined over 300 others across the country to be part of a class action lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs.
The Provo City School District also joined the case in its June 22 board meeting. Both districts voted unanimously for admission to the class.
They are currently the only two counties in Utah to have signed up for the national lawsuit – although an attorney for the Kirton McConkie law firm said in a written statement on July 13 that they expected other school counties in the state to join as well.
“The goal of Vaping and Juul, the stated goal, was to help people transition from cigarettes to something less harmful. But in the state of Utah, twice as many children under the age of 18 vape as adults. It was a huge hit with the illegal underage crowd, ”said Joel Wright of Kirton McConkie in his presentation to the Ogden School Board
The case has been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California and is being chaired by Federal Judge William H. Orrick. The process is scheduled to begin in March 2022. Juul had previously requested that the case be closed, which was rejected by the judge in October 2020.
The lawsuit is being led by the Frantz Law Group in California, although the Utah counties are also represented by Kirton McConkie of Salt Lake City. According to William Shinoff of the Frantz Law Group, participating in the lawsuit poses no financial risk to school districts.
When asked by Provo School Board member Jennifer Partridge whether there were any potential risks in participating in the lawsuit, Shinoff cited the three to five hours it would take to complete the questionnaire as a potential disadvantage – and noted that the Time is also a chance for members of the school district to learn more about Juul and the case.
According to OSD managing director Zane Woolstenhume, the decision to file the lawsuit was an easy one.
“The Ogden School District Education Committee has joined this class action lawsuit because vaping is a growing problem and concern in the district,” he wrote in an email to the Standard Examiner. “By participating in the class action lawsuit, we hope to create greater public awareness of the problem and, if successful, use the proceeds to (then) install more steam detection systems in schools to address the problems associated with it to mitigate. “
At the Ogden School Board meeting on June 3 to discuss the lawsuit, then-Executive Director of Secondary Schools and current Superintendent Luke Rasmussen briefed the board on the status of vaping in Ogden schools and the efforts of administrators to practice stop in schools. Rasmussen called it “an ongoing problem administrators deal with”.
Board member Arlene Anderson asked the rest of the board if there should be a district policy on what to do if students have steam machines on school premises. Wright responded that the devices could be confiscated from teachers and administrators, according to the laws of the country.
Known for its sleek design, Juul became the fastest company ever to reach a valuation of $ 10 billion, according to Wright. He added that the company holds over 60% of the market and that 97% of minors’ vaping is done with flavored pods like mango or creme brulee.
Participation in the class action lawsuit was discussed for the Provo School District at its board meeting on June 8th. The hearing included a statement on vaping presented to the board and information on the specific health risks. Shinoff, who led the class, told board members that Juul does not fully educate customers about the nicotine levels of their products. He claims that each Juul pod is the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes.
“This is a $ 10 billion company not paying for the damage it causes. This is a chance for this school district and the others to get the resources they need to have vapor detectors, consultants, and other resources to slow and stop this growing epidemic as much as possible ” said Rod Andreason, attorney at Kirton McConkie, stop in his presentation to the school board.
The steam detectors were specifically mentioned by Shinoff to the Provo School Board. The goal would be to get the devices valued at $ 3,000-5,000 in classrooms, bathrooms, and hallways. They work by detecting chemical changes in the air. School districts across the country have used steam detectors with varying degrees of success, according to Wired.
In the 2019 SHARP survey conducted by the Utah Department of Human Services, about 16% of 12th grade students in Utah said they vaped in the past 30 days. About 2.3% of students in the same class reported smoking cigarettes.
Attorneys in the prosecution case are paid a contingency fee. According to Andreason, the payment would come from a possible clawback to Frantz Law Group and other lawyers. “If nothing is restored, nothing is paid for,” he said.
In April, Judge Orrick approved the inclusion of RICO claims in today’s lawsuit against Juul. RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, has been used in criminal and civil trials to increase sentences for defendants. Juul is partially owned by Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, which was held liable under the RICO Act in 2006 for hiding the health risks of smoking.
The company did not respond to a request for a specific comment, but added a statement on its website regarding the use of the products by minors.
“No minor should consume JUUL products or nicotine in any form. US data shows unacceptable underage usage rates of our products. We are working to reverse this trend by focusing on restricting access to our products and making our products less attractive. “
Shinoff told the Ogden School Board he expected the class to nearly quadruple by the end of the summer.
Towards the end of the attorneys’ presentation, Nancy Blair, a member of the Ogden School Board, told her colleagues about discussions with her granddaughters about how long students go vaping in class – everything from hiding vape pens in their sleeves to squeezing the clouds of vapor under their desks.
“I was just amazed. They said, ‘No, it happens every day, in every class,’ ”she said. “We have a problem.”
You can reach reporter Harrison Epstein at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @harrisonepstein.