The Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles Unified) and Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP held a joint press conference in downtown Los Angeles today to announce the filing of a class action lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc., the leading e-cigarette manufacturer, for creating an epidemic of youth vaping that has infiltrated the second-largest school district in the country, impeding student learning and putting the health and safety of more than 600,000 Los Angeles Unified students at risk. The District is represented in the matter by attorneys Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Jesse Creed of Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP, John Fiske and Scott Summy of Baron & Budd, P.C. and David Holmquist, Alexander Molina and Devora Navera Reed of the Office of General Counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District
“We are here to join others in the cause to stop this epidemic,” Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “The money we are spending to deal with the trauma vaping is bringing into our schools, is money not spent on instruction. By filing this lawsuit today, we are taking a step toward ensuring those responsible will pay the price to repair the harm done to our students, our schools and the communities we serve.”
According to the District, student vaping incidences throughout Los Angeles Unified have increased tenfold since 2013. During the 2018-19 academic year alone, there were approximately 435 critical incidents reported, however, these numbers dramatically underestimate the total incidences of vaping and e-cigarette use on campus, as they reflect only critical incidents reported by principals. By the end of the current school year, the number of critical incidents is expected to be substantially higher.
“JUUL designed its device and used deceptive marketing to entice and sustain an entire generation of underage consumers into nicotine addiction,” attorney Brian Panish said. “We intend to hold JUUL accountable for its role in the vaping crisis that has affected our youth, our schools, and families across the country who are combating the real and life-threatening consequences of JUUL’s irresponsible practices.”
As alleged in the complaint, the vaping epidemic has, and will, continue to challenge the academic achievements of all Los Angeles Unified students as the District is forced to divert its resources, time and effort to combat the issue. Not only has vaping affected individual learning, it has led to a rise in student absences, which in-turn causes a reduction in District state funding. Funds typically used for classroom instruction are now being diverted for educational campaigns, prevention and treatment for student vaping as well as the launch of an internal task force of administrators and staff to enforce vaping restrictions and dispose of vaping paraphernalia on campus. District property has also been affected as some student bathrooms — often referred to as the “JUUL room” — cannot be utilized due to high instances of bathroom vaping.
The District recognizes there is an increasing and immediate need to create and fund intervention, cessation and treatment programs for Los Angeles Unified students as it plans for the devastating impacts of a “JUULing future.”