By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.— On March 20, the Goodrich School Board voted 7-0 to approve resolution after a settlement for $600 million with Juul Labs regarding the impact of vaping on students.
The district’s share of the settlement will be $34,997 with 30 percent for attorney’s fees.
“The settlement is based on enrollment and number of buildings size,” said Mike Baszler, district superintendent.
The district will discuss exactly how the settlement will be spent, however, several key needs regarding student vaping will be addressed.
“The biggest piece of the settlement is the awareness factor,” he said. “Some of the suggestions will include dangers of vaping speakers, prevention resources, and repairs to district facilities caused by vaping.”
Baszler said the district is not done yet with regard to vaping litigation restitution.
“There’s more litigation out there,” he added.
The settlement stems from a March 2022 board vote to join other public school districts in a nationwide lawsuit against electronic cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc., alleging vaping is harming students.
Since that time Juul has reached several settlements. According to news sources, in January 2023, a U.S. District Judge approved a $225 million settlement that Juul deceptively marketed the product, downplaying addiction and marketed to minors. In September 2022, Juul tentatively agreed to pay more than $438 million to settle investigations by dozens of states over how it marketed to teenagers.
The company did not admit any wrongdoing.
At that time school officials said there was no financial or legal risk to the districts for participating. The district was asked to join the consortium and if there is a financial recovery they would be a part of that settlement. If it was dismissed it would cost the district nothing.
The school district was represented by East Lansing-based Thrun Law Firm to initiate the litigation to hold Juul accountable. Thrun is not co-counsel in the litigation, rather is limited to referring clients to Frantz Law Group, a California law firm.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants fraudulently and intentionally marketed their products to children.
The damages are separated into past and future. For past damages, schools in the litigation will be seeking reimbursement for costs associated with purchasing and installing vape detectors.
In addition, they were seeking any lost state aid associated with vaping suspensions and expulsions.
As for future damages, the focus will be on obtaining compensation for schools to appropriately handle the vaping epidemic going forward without having to take money out of the general fund.
By David Fleet