Juul, Altria reach settlement with Minnesota amid trial

Juul, Altria reach settlement with Minnesota amid trial

After weeks of testimony in a Minnesota courtroom, state Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Monday morning that his office has settled a case against Juul and Altria.

After weeks of testimony in a Minnesota courtroom, state Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Monday morning that his office has settled a case against Juul and Altria.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the trial began on March 27 with jury selection, and opening statements began the following day. The trial was expected to last about three weeks; however, the state announced its settlement on Monday morning.

RELATED: Opening statements underway, trial begins for Minnesota case against Juul, Altria

Ellison’s office didn’t immediately disclose the amount the state will receive as part of the settlement or why the state settled with the companies.

According to a spokesperson for Ellison’s office, the amount must remain confidential for 30 days as part of the terms of the agreement.

Last year, Ellison spoke out after multiple states reached a $438.5 million settlement deal with Juul, saying Minnesota wasn’t a part of that particular settlement. He issued a statement on Twitter regarding that deal, saying in part, “We are taking Juul and Altria to trial in March 2023 – we’ll be the first state to do so – for deceiving Minnesotans about the harms of their product, esp on young ppl. We can do better in holding them accountable.”

While dozens of other states also filed lawsuits against the companies, Minnesota was the first to take the companies to trial.

Ellison’s office sued the companies back in 2019, claiming Juul designed its products to appeal to youth and get the younger generation addicted to its products. Additionally, the attorney’s office claims Juul failed to verify its customers’ ages and ignored children buying and using its products. Altria, the third-largest tobacco company in global sales and market value, supported Juul’s marketing and helped the company reach more people, Ellison’s office claimed.

Monday’s announcement is the latest in a round of settlements. Just last week, Juul announced it would pay $462 million in a settlement with six states — New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico, as well as Washington, D.C.

Ellison issued the following prepared statement on Monday regarding the settlement:

“In Minnesota, the health and safety of our children is of paramount importance. And yet, JUUL products exposed a whole new generation of kids to the addictive and dangerous drug nicotine. After three weeks of trial highlighting and bringing into the public record the actions that JUUL and Altria took that contributed to the youth vaping epidemic, we reached a settlement in the best interest of Minnesotans.

Right now, the terms of the final settlement are not public, but we will announce them soon. When we do, it will be alongside those harmed, the community, elected officials, and others responsible for protecting our children.

We followed in the footsteps of former Attorney General Skip Humphrey, who led the historic 1998 tobacco trial in Minnesota. Once again, Minnesota has demonstrated leadership in taking these cases head on, including going to trial to hold tobacco companies accountable, protect our community’s health, and protect our kids. One of my goals in bringing this case was to send a message: we will not tolerate youth marketing of nicotine products in Minnesota. My office will continue to do its part to protect kids from getting hooked on these harmful products.

I want to thank our trial team, including our assistant attorneys general and attorneys from Robins Kaplan and Zimmerman Reed. The State and local agencies that have been taking on the youth vaping trend for years, including the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, have done tremendous work and have my deep gratitude. Finally, I want to express my appreciation to Judge Laurie J. Miller and the members of the jury, who spend three weeks diligently listening to the evidence.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

Juul also issued a prepared statement Monday morning:

“Resolution of issues from the company’s past and its historical legal challenges has remained a critical priority to secure certainty for our future. While we appreciate the court and jury’s time, attention and professionalism throughout the trial, we are pleased to have reached a settlement with the state and will work to finalize this agreement over the coming weeks. We have now settled with 48 states and territories, providing over $1 billion to participating states to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs. This is in addition to our global resolution of the U.S. private litigation that covers more than 5,000 cases brought by approximately 10,000 plaintiffs.

As we reach total resolution of the company’s past, we are focused on our path forward to maximize the value and impact of our product technology and scientific foundation. Our technology already has transitioned over two million adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. And our priorities remain to secure authorization of our PMTAs based on the science and lead the category with innovation to accelerate our mission and advance tobacco harm reduction for over 31 million adult smokers in the U.S. and over one billion adults smokers worldwide.”