MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minnesota has settled its lawsuit with JUUL and Altria a day before closing arguments were scheduled to begin, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a news release on Monday.
Minnesota was the first to go to trial with JUUL and Altria for its e-cigarette marketing tactics, which Ellison said were deceptive and appealing to youths.
Ellison sued JUUL in 2019 for violating the state's consumer protection laws, breaching its duty of reasonable care and creating a public nuisance. Ellison said at the time of the lawsuit, youth vaping reached its peak in Minnesota, but prior to JUUL's emergence, Minnesota had been seeing the lowest levels of youth tobacco use in decades.
"In Minnesota, the health and safety of our children is of paramount importance. And yet, JUUL products exposed a whole new generation of kids to the addictive and dangerous drug nicotine. 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," Ellison said in a statement.
The trial began on March 28 and the state rested its case on April 11. Closing arguments were scheduled for Tuesday, April 17.
The terms of the settlement are confidential until formal papers are filed with the court, which typically takes about 30 days, Ellison's news release says.
JUUL's full statement on the settlement
A spokesperson issued the following statement to FOX 9 on Monday:
"Resolution of issues from the company’s past and its historical legal challenges has remained a critical priority to secure certainty for our future. While we appreciate the court and jury’s time, attention, and professionalism throughout the trial, we are pleased to have reached a settlement with the state and will work to finalize this agreement over the coming weeks. We have now settled with 48 states and territories, providing over $1 billion to participating states to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs. This is in addition to our global resolution of the U.S. private litigation that covers more than 5,000 cases brought by approximately 10,000 plaintiffs.
"As we reach total resolution of the company’s past, we are focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation. Our technology already has transitioned over two million adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. And our priorities remain to secure authorization of our PMTAs based on the science and lead the category with innovation to accelerate our mission and advance tobacco harm reduction for over 31 million adult smokers in the U.S. and over 1 billion adult smokers worldwide."
AG Ellison's full statement on the settlement
Juul packages are seen on a shelf at Empire Smoke Shop on December 07, 2022 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City. Juul Labs announced that it has agreed to settle about 5,000 lawsuits in a Northern California court case f
"In Minnesota, the health and safety of our children is of paramount importance. And yet, JUUL products exposed a whole new generation of kids to the addictive and dangerous drug nicotine. 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.
"Right now, the terms of the final settlement are not public, but we will announce them soon. When we do, it will be alongside those harmed, the community, elected officials, and others responsible for protecting our children.
"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. One of my goals in bringing this case was to send a message: we will not tolerate youth marketing of nicotine products in Minnesota. My office will continue to do its part to protect kids from getting hooked on these harmful products.
"I want to thank our trial team, including our assistant attorneys general and attorneys from Robins Kaplan and Zimmerman Reed. The State and local agencies that have been taking on the youth vaping trend for years, including the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, have done tremendous work and have my deep gratitude. Finally, I want to express my appreciation to Judge Laurie J. Miller and the members of the jury, who spent three weeks diligently listening to the evidence."