COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — A Collierville man has filed a class action lawsuit against electronic cigarette maker Juul and its parent companies Altria Group, Inc. and Phillip Morris USA, Inc.
The lawsuit claims the three companies use "fraudulent and deceptive youth marketing business practices."
John Scott Emidy, 25, of Collierville claimed he's been addicted to an e-cigarette he refers to in the suit as a "Juul product."
Emidy's class action lawsuit goes after Juul and minority investor Altria, Inc., owner of Phillip Morris USA, which sells Marlboro cigarettes,
Emidy's suit claims through deceptive advertising, "defendants prey on youth to recruit replacement smokers for financial gain."
Amy Campbell, associate professor of law at the University of Memphis, specializes in health law and policy. She said the lawsuit follows trends seen in lawsuits filed against "big tobacco."
"Saying that they are 'deceptive practices,' trying to sort of falsely advertise safety of a product, enticing youth to want to use it, make it seem like it's cool and un-selling the dangers or risks that might be inherit in the product," said Campbell, associate professor of law and the director of the Institute for Health Law Policy.
Campbell said she won't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but she said we're likely to see more class action lawsuits like this, targeting e-cigarette manufactures.
"I think so, definitely," Campbell said. "Especially with now we're starting to see lung infections and actual deaths that they're investigating ties to e-cigarettes. So you can imagine, especially when injuries happen, we'll see a lot more of this kind of action."
The Ridgeland, Mississippi, law firm representing Emidy would not comment on the lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages as permitted under Tennessee law.
Campbell said, however, money may not be the main goal.
"You really want to hurt the ability to sell the product, which would then make it not feasible to actually sell them at all," Campbell said. "So it's really, sort of, that declaratory relief, or trying to get the practices stopped, beyond the financial, that is so critical."
WREG was unable to reach John Scott Emidy.
Juul Labs, Inc. has not responded to a request for a comment on the lawsuit, but Altria Group sent the following response:
"We believe the claims against Altria and Philip Morris USA are merit-less and will move to dismiss the cases at the appropriate time. Virtually all of the conduct alleged in the complaints occurred before we had any economic interest in Juul. Our minority stake in Juul provides no basis for liability against Altria or PM USA."