Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will release opening arguments in the state’s lawsuit against Juul Labs on Tuesday, the first of thousands of cases against the e-cigarette maker to go to trial.
Minnesota is seeking more than $100 million in damages, Ellison said, accusing Francisco-based Juul of illegally targeting youth to get a new generation addicted to nicotine.
Juul is facing thousands of lawsuits across the country, but mostly settled in 39 lawsuits with the rest of the states and territories. Not so Minnesota, which in 1998 reached a historic $7.1 billion settlement with the tobacco industry. The current case includes Big Tobacco Altria, a former minority shareholder in Juul.
Altria completed its divestment this month and said it lost $12.8 billion. But he didn’t give up: Just days later, Altria announced a $2.75 billion investment in Juul rival NJOY.
“We will show how Juul and Altria have taken and hooked a generation of Minnesota teenagers with their products, at great public expense and great public expense,” Ellison said in a statement. He plans to turn the case over to two solid lawyers after filing opening arguments.
The trial before Hennepin County prosecutor Laurie Miller is expected to last about three weeks. The lawsuit between the state and Minnesota Blue Cross Blue Shield, an association of health insurers, lasted nearly four months until Big Tobacco agreed to a settlement before closing arguments.
Juul is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its vaping products as an alternative to adult smokers. Lawsuits have been filed against Juul in New York, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Alaska, Illinois, West Virginia and the state of Washington.