An Athens business has been dropped from a civil lawsuit that also included e-cigarette maker JUUL and Philip Morris, the country's largest tobacco company.
Discount Tobacco, which operates on Jefferson Street, was named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Brian Bentley, the father of a Limestone County teen. Bentley, who is represented by law firm Beasley Allen, claims his minor son suffered “a permanent brain injury” because of his addiction to nicotine and use of the JUUL e-cigarette. Bentley's son is identified as “A.B.” in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Discount Tobacco sold products to “A.B.,” with “knowledge that he is and was underage.”
“(The business) actively and knowingly sold high nicotine containing JUUL products to underage customers with no warning of its dangerous propensities,” the lawsuit says. “Discount Tobacco conducted business in such a way that it has led to A.B.'s injuries.”
The motion to dismiss the case against Discount Tobacco was filed July 26 by Beasley Allen attorney Joseph VanZandt in Limestone County Circuit Court. The motion states the plaintiff “dismisses all claims” against the business.
Circuit Judge Robert Baker ordered Discount Tobacco dismissed from the case on July 29.
Cherie Hobson, owner of Discount Tobacco, said she was able to “quickly prove” her store should have never been named in the suit.
“We card everybody who walks in the door who even appears under 30 or 40,” she said Wednesday.
An attempt to get a comment from Beasley Allen was not was successful prior to The News Courier's deadline.
About the suit
Bentley, the suit says, did not know a JUUL was an electronic cigarette when he first saw it. He thought it was a USB drive for a computer. It goes on to say, now that he is aware of it, he's “concerned for his son's well-being, current mental and physical health, and future health because of the known complications associated with nicotine usage and addiction.”
“A.B. now struggles to function without nicotine,” the lawsuit says. “He experiences strong mood swings and bouts of rage from withdrawal from the JUUL. A.B.'s severe addiction to the nicotine levels contained in the JUUL created within him behavioral issues and deceptive habits that did not exist before, causing severe conflict in the Bentley home to the point where he had to be sent to a military academy in Texas.”
Other defendants named in the suit include PAX Labs Inc. and Altria Group Inc. Altria Group Inc. has partnered with JUUL, while Philip Morris is a subsidiary of Altria. In 2018, Altria acquired 35% ownership in JUUL for $12.8 billion.