SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Juul Labs Inc. and Altria Group Inc. reached a settlement agreement with the Minnesota Attorney General's office in regards to accusations the companies had deceptively marketed e-cigarettes to Minnesota's youth.
In 2019, Minnesota Attorney General Ellison sued Juul, stating the company had allegedly violated the state's consumer-protection laws, breaching its duty of reasonable care and creating a public nuisance. The allegations specifically focused on the spread of underage vaping and the spike in youth tobacco use, which, according to the attorney general's office, had been declining for years before the e-cigarette industry emerged.
The lawsuit alleged that Juul developed sleek devices and flavors that were appealing to youth, while Juul's youth-oriented marketing deceptively attracted and addicted young people. In 2020, Minnesota amended its complaint to include Richmond, Va.-based Altria as a defendant, as the latter had spent $12.8 billion to acquire a 35 percent share in Juul in 2018. Last month, the court's denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment ensured the case would go to trial, the first such suit against Juul to do so.
The trial began on March 28, with the state presenting 11 witnesses in support of its claims before resting its case on April 11.
As with many cases, including other Juul settlements, the terms will be kept confidential until formal papers are publicly filed with the court. It is anticipated that the papers will be filed in 30 days, at which time the specific terms will be made public. Previous resolutions with multiple plaintiffs included reported settlements upwards of $1 billion.
"After three weeks of trial highlighting and bringing into the public record the actions that Juul and Altria took that contributed to the youth vaping epidemic, we reached a settlement in the best interest of Minnesotans," said Ellison. "We followed in the footsteps of former Attorney General Skip Humphrey, who led the historic 1998 tobacco trial in Minnesota. Once again, Minnesota has demonstrated leadership in taking these cases head on, including going to trial to hold tobacco companies accountable, protect our community's health and protect our kids."