(The Center Square) – Seattle Public Schools is set to receive $1.75 million through 2027 in settlements after a four year legal battle with the electronic cigarette company JUUL Labs.
Under the Juul settlement, the district will receive a net of approximately $1.3 million after payment of litigation costs and 15% for attorney’s fees. Out of the $1.3 million, $750,000 will be paid this month, while approximately $150,000 will be paid every January from 2024 through 2027.
In November 2019, Seattle Public Schools sued JUUL Labs and other companies involved in the manufacture, distribution and marketing of vaping products. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and alleged that the defendants had advertised and designed their products to deliberately target minors. In turn, this contributed to a dramatic increase in vaping and nicotine addiction amongst the youth.
“I remember when we first filed this there was some community saying ‘is this really what [Seattle Public Schools] should be putting its time and attention into’ and yeah I think obviously the answer is yes,” Seattle Public Schools Board Member Lisa Rivera said at Dec. 13 board meeting. “It’s always important to put our time and attention to protecting the health and safety of our students.”
The lawsuit sought a court order preventing the defendants from continuing to market their products to minors and funding for district programs to treat addiction and to educate students about the dangers of using addictive substances like nicotine. Greg Narver, general counsel at Seattle Public Schools, said that aspect of the case was resolved through actions by the Food and Drug Administration.
Seattle Public Schools was one of 1,500 governmental entities that were part of the case. The settlements were reached in September, but they did not become final until there was court approval as part of the class action settlement.
The Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors approved of the settlement funds at its Dec. 13 meeting.
Narver said that the district will need to convene a team, including representatives from School Health, to decide decide the best way to allocate the settlement funds to address problems related to JUUL’s marketing.
The district also reached a second global settlement with the remaining defendant in the case, Altria, in July. Under that settlement, the district will receive a net of approximately $400,000, which is expected to be paid in April 2024.