A class action lawsuit involves a group of people with an identical or similar complaint caused by the same product. Instead of multiple similar cases being brought to court, the entire group sues a defendant. In this case, a suit was filed by plaintiffs in New York, Illinois and California against a group of tobacco companies (including Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Reynolds American Inc.). The claim was that the companies had “deceptively advertised” the health benefits of cigalike electronic cigarette products over traditional tobacco cigarettes.
The Judge decided that federal law (the one applying to the whole of the USA) takes precedence over any legislation enacted by individual states. In this case, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act states that companies just have to print a warning on the product packaging about nicotine being addictive. The States that have demanded more comprehensive labels will be unable to enforce them.
In addition, the judge said that the claim “makes no adequate allegation about any substances other than formaldehyde or acetaldehyde. The single passing reference to ‘high concentrations of ultrafine particles,’ is far too cursory to state a plausible independent claim under the UCL and CLRA for fraudulent omissions or failure to disclose.”
But this statement opened up a new avenue of attack for the plaintiffs. Leave to amend the complaint has been made providing adequate facts can be stated to allow a claim under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, known as Prop 65. And amend it they will.
As an article detailing the background to the case writes: “The combination of a booming industry, lack of information, concerns about long-term effects on youth and Reynolds Vapor Co. deep pockets was bound to cause enterprising mass tort lawyers to sue under Proposition 65.”
Pursuing a case under the proposition means detailing what toxins they are looking for – something that will no doubt lead to a sudden release of research papers condemning vaping. The National Law Review states: “Despite the dismissal of seven counts in this class action suit, the remaining cause of action is likely to result in discovery of previously unknown chemicals in the e-cigarette fumes and liquids—perhaps resulting in additional lawsuits.”