Carmel father sues JUUL for son’s addiction

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A Carmel father is suing e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL for its alleged role in his son becoming addicted to nicotine.

Thomas McCullough filed the lawsuit in federal court Aug. 20 on behalf of his son, a 17-year-old student at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory High School. The lawsuit states that the student first tried JUUL e-cigarettes in late 2015 as a freshman at age 15 and that the addiction has affected his behavior.

“He became withdrawn, anxious, highly irritable and prone to angry outbursts,” the lawsuit states, in addition to experiencing withdrawal headaches and losing interest in participating in sports and social activities.

The lawsuit states that JUUL’s design, manufacturing and marketing makes it appealing to minors and that it contains three times more nicotine than is necessary to satisfy nicotine cravings of an adult smoker.

Nicholas Deets, an attorney representing the McCulloughs, said the family hopes the lawsuit will prevent other minors from becoming addicted to e-cigarettes.

“(The lawsuit) does not have anything to do with money at all,” Deets said. “It’s trying to do something to stop this epidemic of all these kids using what’s known to be a dangerous product. It’s causing serious nicotine addictions for young teenage children. There’s evidence there’s going to be addiction problems the rest of their life when they develop an addiction at this stage.”

Deets said McCullough’s son is undergoing medical treatment in an attempt to overcome his nicotine addiction. The McCulloughs are seeking an unspecified amount of punitive and compensatory damages.

JUUL Labs spokesperson Ted Kwong stated in an email that the company has never marketed to youth and that the product is only intended to be an alternative for existing cigarette smokers.

“This suit largely copies and pastes unfounded allegations previously raised in other lawsuits which we have been actively contesting for over a year,” Kwong stated. “Like the prior cases that this one copies, it is without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process.”

Kwong pointed to the fact that JUUL supports raising the minimum age for tobacco use to 21 and that it shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts, among other measures to keep the product out of the hands of minors.

The lawsuit against JUUL isn’t the only one Thomas McCullough has filed this year on behalf of one of his children. In July, he filed a suit seeking compensation for injuries his younger son sustained at a bar mitzvah party held at Off the Wall Sports in April in Carmel.

The lawsuit states that his son broke his left arm after slipping on foam. It lists Off the Wall Sports, Foamalicious and the parents of the boy who invited the younger McCullough to the party as defendants.

Deets said another party attendee also suffered a serious arm injury and that two others sustained concussions at the event. He said the attendees had “inadequate supervision” and that the foam party “never should have happened.”

Mark Correll, an attorney representing Off the Wall Sports, said his client denies “any and all liability.”

“We have inquired regarding the allegations and accusations beyond what is stated in the complaint itself, but have yet to receive any response,” Correll stated in an email. “We look forward to addressing this matter in court.”

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