E-Cigarette Lawsuits

E-cigarette lawsuits claim vaping led to seizures, serious lung disease and strokes. Many claim that high nicotine levels in vaping fluids or pods led to e-cig addiction, possibly worsening the health dangers for people who used JUUL and other electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarette vape pen
E-Cigarette Lawsuit Facts
  1. Injuries Seizures, hemorrhagic strokes and bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP), also known as cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP)
  2. Manufacturers JUUL, Altria-Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands
  3. Verdicts & Settlements None yet; lawsuits are still in the early stages

The number of e-cigarette lawsuits has been growing alongside rapidly increased e-cigarette use among teens and young people.

The U.S. Surgeon General has said there is an “e-cigarette epidemic among youth.” Most e-cig lawsuits have been filed by young adults or parents of teens who were unaware of the side effects of vaping.

In April 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began investigating reports of seizures related to vaping. Most of the reports involved teens and young adults.

Some people who suffered these seizures began filing lawsuits while the FDA investigation was still under way. Other e-cig users have filed lawsuits that claim chemicals in the e-cig fluids caused bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia, which is abbreviated as BOOP. Still other lawsuits claim vaping caused hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when bleeding suddenly interferes with the brain.

Many people who filed lawsuits say they became addicted to using e-cigarettes which led to or worsened their conditions. They claim they were unaware that vape fluids contained high levels of nicotine, a highly addictive substance.

Big Tobacco Companies Named in E-Cigarette Lawsuits

Many e-cig lawsuits target JUUL Labs Inc., which accounts for about 75 percent of the e-cigarettes sold in the United States. Those lawsuits also name Altria-Philips Morris, the Big Tobacco company that makes Marlboro and other tobacco cigarettes. Altria purchased 35 percent of JUUL in December 2018.

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Big Tobacco’s Big Lawsuit Settlement
Big Tobacco companies named in e-cig lawsuits were part of the largest civil court settlement in United States history. In the 1998 tobacco settlement, tobacco companies agreed to pay $246 billion over 25 years to settle lawsuits with 46 states, the District of Columbia and five United States territories.

Lawsuits may also name other e-cigarette makers and tobacco companies such as Imperial Brands, which markets Blu e-cigs, and British American Tobacco, which markets four e-cigarettes including Vuse and Vype.

E-cigarette lawsuits are still in the early stages. Lawyers are taking and building cases. There have been no major e-cig verdicts or settlements so far.

Lawsuit Claims Nicotine Caused Seizures

Parents of a 15-year-old Florida girl filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Altria Group Inc. and Philip Morris USA Inc. in 2019 after the teen suffered seizures they blamed on nicotine ingestion from vaping. Erin and Jared NesSmith claim their daughter became addicted to JUUL e-cigarettes. JUUL vape pods each contain as much nicotine as a pack of tobacco cigarettes.

The lawsuit claims she unintentionally swallowed e-cig fluids while using JUUL.

As of August 2019, the FDA had identified 127 reports of vaping-related seizures or neurological symptoms that occurred between 2010 and 2019. Many of these cases could be a potential e-cig lawsuit.

Nicotine Arms Race
When JUUL e-cigarettes first appeared on the market, they delivered nearly two to five times more nicotine than other e-cigarettes.
Source: Professor Robert K. Jackler and Researcher Divya Ramamurthi, Stanford University

Seizures are a known side effect of nicotine toxicity. But many teens don’t realize nicotine is an e-cigarette danger. A 2019 study in the journal Pediatrics found that 40 percent of teens did not even realize the vape fluids they used contained nicotine.

The FDA found many of the seizure reports it examined involved teens and young adults. Luka Kinard of North Carolina suffered seizures after vaping the equivalent of 80 tobacco cigarettes per day. He was 14 years old at the time and had to check into rehab to break his nicotine habit, according to a report in the Greensboro News & Record.

Vaping Blamed for Breathing Problems

A pair of college students from Alabama filed a lawsuit in 2019 claiming they developed serious lung disorders from vaping JUUL e-cigarettes.

Elizabeth Swearingen was a 19-year-old student at the University of Alabama. She had been a cross country athlete in high school. But the lawsuit claims she “now has trouble breathing during the simplest of tasks.”

John Thomas Via Peavy was a 19-year-old student at Auburn University who had been using JUUL e-cigarettes since he was 17. The lawsuit claims he suffered “severe breathing problems after using JUUL.” The complaint says Peavy continues to have chest-congestion and a loss of appetite.

The complaint claims that both Swearingen and Peavy unintentionally swallowed vape fluids while using JUUL.

Did You Know?
Swallowing e-fluids used in any e-cig or vape pen can be fatal? If you swallow vaping fluids, you should immediately call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 for expert help.
Source: National Capital Poison Control Center

A 2018 study in the journal Thorax found e-cig vapor disables immune cells in the lung and increases inflammation. Researchers said it could increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

COPD symptoms are similar to another lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia, or BOOP. The American Lung Association has warned that BOOP is a potential vaping side effect.

Lawsuit Claims Man’s JUUL Use Caused a Massive Stroke

Juul e-cigarette with pods
JUUL accounts for 75 percent of the United States e-cigarette market, according to research in the journal Tobacco Control.

Maxwell Berger sued JUUL Labs in 2019 claiming his two-JUUL-pods-a-day habit led to his massive stroke before he turned 20. Vaping two of the pods would mean he was ingesting as much nicotine as someone who smoked 40 tobacco cigarettes a day.

Berger said in his complaint that he started using a JUUL e-cigarette while still a senior in high school in 2015. He claimed that two years later he was so addicted to nicotine that he was using the device every 10 minutes.

He suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke in July 2017. Hemorrhagic strokes can occur when a blood vessel bursts near the brain. Blood builds up in the skull, putting pressure on the brain and damaging it.

Berger’s lawsuit claimed he needed three brain surgeries and spent 100 days in the hospital as a result. The complaint said he suffers paralysis on his left side, speech impairment and loss of half his vision in each eye.

A 2019 study presented at the International Stroke Conference found e-cigarette users had higher risks of stroke and heart problems than non-users. The researchers found e-cig users had a 71 percent higher stroke risk, 59 percent higher heart attack risk and a 40 percent higher heart disease risk.

How to File an E-Cigarette or JUUL Lawsuit

People who file e-cigarette lawsuits usually have experienced a serious health condition connected to vaping. They may have also accidentally swallowed liquid in an e-cig’s pod while vaping.

People who have been diagnosed with seizures, severe lung conditions or strokes after vaping may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the company that made the e-cigarette they used.

If you are considering a lawsuit, you should preserve the e-cigarette you used and any vaping fluids. And you should document how long you’ve been vaping, how often you used your e-cigarette and how many vape pods you used on a typical day.

Because the medical injuries involved can be complex, people should seek out an attorney with experience in filing medical-related lawsuits.

Product liability lawyers usually offer free consultations to determine if you have a case. They also generally do not charge a fee unless they win your case. Be sure to ask any lawyer you consult about charges up front to make sure.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

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Terry Turner
Written By Terry Turner Writer

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 25 years. He covers FDA policy, proton pump inhibitors, and medical devices such as hernia mesh, IVC filters, and hip and knee implants. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Some of his qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in Washington Examiner, MedPage Today and The New York Times
  • Appeared as an expert panelist on hernia mesh lawsuits on the BBC
Edited By

27 Cited Research Articles

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  2. American Lung Association. (2019, July 12). E-Cigarettes. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html
  3. American Lung Association. (2019, May 21). The Impact of E-Cigarettes on the Lung. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/impact-of-e-cigarettes-on-lung.html
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  7. Carroll, L. (2019, April 22). Vaping Teens Exposed to as Much Nicotine as Tobacco Smokers but Don’t Know It. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/vaping-teens-exposed-much-nicotine-tobacco-smokers-don-t-know-n996866
  8. CBS News. (2019, April 4). Can Vaping Trigger Seizures? Health Officials Investigate E-Cigarette Risks. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vaping-seizures-health-officials-investigate-e-cigarette-risk-2019-04/
  9. Glantz, S.A. (2019, April 16). Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against JUUL and Altria/Philip Morris Builds on Past Litigation Against Big Tobacco. UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Retrieved from https://tobacco.ucsf.edu/class-action-lawsuit-filed-against-juul-and-altriaphilip-morris-builds-past-litigation-against-big-tobacco
  10. Jackler, R.K. and Ramamurthi, D. (2019, February 6). Nicotine Arms Race: JUUL and the High-Nicotine Product Market. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30733312
  11. Lambert, J. (2019, January 30). Survey Finds Higher Risk of Stroke Among E-Cigarette Users. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/01/30/689905296/survey-finds-higher-risk-of-stroke-among-e-cigarette-users
  12. Mantilla, R.D., Darnell, R.T., and Sofi, U. (2016, May 18). Vapor Lung: Bronchiolitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia (BOOP) in Patient with E-Cigarette Use. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/ajrccm-conference.2016.193.1_MeetingAbstracts.A6513
  13. Ndunda, P.M. and Muutu, T.M. (2019, February 6). Electronic Cigarette Use Is Associated With a Higher Risk of Stroke. American Stroke Association, International Stroke Conference. Retrieved from https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/4715/presentation/10365
  14. O’Donnell, J. (2019, April 3). FDA: Dozens of Seizures Reported After Vaping, Mostly by Young People. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/04/03/vaping-electronic-cigarettes-seizures-convulsions-food-drug-administration/3346467002/
  15. Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. (2018). Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth. Retrieved from https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/surgeon-generals-advisory-on-e-cigarette-use-among-youth-2018.pdf
  16. Pounds, J. (2019, August 4). A High Point Teen’s Parents Sent Him to Rehab for his Vaping Addiction. Now He’s Sharing His Story to Help Others. Greensboro News & Record. Retrieved from https://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/a-high-point-teen-s-parents-sent-him-to-rehab/article_3b318812-e74b-5d71-bf6a-0c9795d56ccc.html
  17. Reuters. (2019, July 26). WHO Says E-Cigarettes, “Smoke-Free” Products Do Not Help Reduce Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2019/07/26/business/26reuters-health-tobacco.html
  18. Rosales, I. (2019, May 7). Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against JUUL on Behalf of Sarasota Teen “Addicted” to E-Cigarettes. WFTS-TV. Retrieved from https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-sarasota-manatee/class-action-lawsuit-filed-against-juul-on-behalf-of-sarasota-teen-addicted-to-e-cigarettes
  19. Rutledge, R. and Spicuzza, M. Wisconsin Health Officials Investigating Six More Reports of Possible Vape-Related Lung Injuries. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2019/07/26/vape-related-lung-injuries-reported-6-more-wisconsin-cases/1843473001/
  20. Scott, A. et al. (2018, August 13). Pro-Inflammatory Effects of E-Cigarette Vapour Condensate on Human Alveolar Macrophages. Thorax. Retrieved from https://thorax.bmj.com/content/73/12/1161
  21. Scutti, S. (2019, July 26). 8 Wisconsin Teens Hospitalized with Severe Lung Damage Due to Vaping, Doctors Suspect. CNN Health. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/26/health/wisconsin-8-teens-lung-damage/index.html
  22. Thielking, M. (2019, April 3). FDA Is Investigating Reports of Seizures After Vaping. STAT. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2019/04/03/fda-investigating-seizures-after-vaping/
  23. Tomlinson, P. (2019, July 31). Fairfield County Man Sues JUUL After Suffering Massive Stroke. CTPost. Retrieved from https://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Fairfield-County-man-sues-Juul-after-suffering-14270644.php
  24. Truth Initiative. (2018, April 18). JUUL E-Cigarettes Gain Popularity Among Youth, but Awareness of Nicotine Presence Remains Low. Retrieved from https://truthinitiative.org/press/press-release/juul-e-cigarettes-gain-popularity-among-youth-awareness-nicotine-presence
  25. U.S. District Court, Northern Dist. of Alabama. (2019, May 22). Complaint. Swearingen et al. v. JUUL Labs, Inc. et al. Case No. 7:19-cv-00779-LSC. Retrieved from https://jnswire.s3.amazonaws.com/jns-media/2a/7d/1362395/SWEARINGENvJUUL.pdf
  26. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, April 10). Some E-Cigarette Users Are Having Seizures, Most Reports Involving Youth and Young Adults. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/ctp-newsroom/some-e-cigarette-users-are-having-seizures-most-reports-involving-youth-and-young-adults
  27. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, August 7). FDA in Brief: FDA Encourages Continued Submission of Reports Related to Seizures Following E-Cigarette Use as Part of Agency’s Ongoing Scientific Investigation of Potential Safety Issue. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-brief/fda-brief-fda-encourages-continued-submission-reports-related-seizures-following-e-cigarette-use
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