Jurors heard a cross-examination of Juul Labs’ largest investor who negotiated a deal with the tobacco corporation, Altria, to give a stake in the fledgling e-cigarette corporation. This action is the latest in a bellwether trial filed by a school district in California against Altria.
The San Francisco school district is one of a number of parties across the country that have continued their legal case against major stakeholders of Juul Labs in an effort to recoup damages sustained by the state due to Juul’s use of marketing targeted toward minors. The bellwether case accuses Altria Group Inc. of negligence, racketeering, and contributing to a public nuisance in San Francisco public schools, according to Law360.
As part of building that case, testimony from Riaz Valani – Juul’s largest investor – was used to demonstrate that Altria knew from the beginning that Juul was targeting youth. Valani is credited by plaintiffs as helping to negotiate the deal that Altria ultimately struck with Juul Labs, turning Valani’s initial $4.8 million investment into a $2.45 billion payoff.
While Valani was discussing the potential of an investment of Altria into Juul, according to attorneys representing the state of California, he received an email from the co-founder of Juul (then called Ploom), James Monsees. In that email, Monsees wrote, "I think where Ploom comes in is for maintaining the youth market."
Supplementing Valani’s testimony was the testimony of Tabitha Wakefield, who was paid to attend Juul’s launch party in 2015. According to Wakefield, she was 18 at the time and was told to invite other friends and influencers around her age. Additionally, under examination from the CA attorney, she confirmed that many of the people attending her parties, including the Juul launch party, were in high school.
Initially, the San Francisco school district had charged both Altria and Juul, but Juul settled with the district in December 2022.
If you or a loved one became addicted to JUUL Labs products or other e-cigarettes, you may be eligible for financial compensation. In order to assess whether you can file a case, you will need to fill out a free case review.