December 3, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Goddard superintendent uses brother’s law firm to sue vaping manufacturer

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The USD 265 Goddard Public Schools Board of Education approved a resolution on Monday night to file a lawsuit against Juul, a major manufacturer and distributor of e-cigarettes and vaping products in the United States. At a press conference on Tuesday, the President of the School Board Kevin McWhorter and Goddard Schools Superintendent Dr. Justin Henry relayed their reasoning behind filing a lawsuit.

“It’s a bigger issue. It’s that they are doing it. How is it impacting their brain, now and in the future? How much time and resources have teachers and administrators, and law enforcement have to put toward this?” says Henry.

Vaping and e-cigarettes are banned in the Goddard district, but as Henry notes, students still use them.

“First week of school last year, a student is vaping in the classroom. Never ever have I seen a student pull a cigarette out. The mindset and the marketing is different,” says Henry.

When asked how suing a large corporation like Juul would prevent students from vaping, McWhorter said he didn’t think it would.

“We need to get everyone the information so that they are able to make their own decisions,” said McWhorter. The school district is suing Juul because they say they are unable to educate students to make better decisions, but Henry and McWhorter could not explain how the district has been harmed by Juul or why they are unable to educate students.

Asked if this lawsuit is government overreach, Henry said that is not his responsibility.

“Our responsibility is to our kids, you can call it whatever you want, but it’s impacting students, and it’s impacting parents.”  Henry continued, “Our charge is to educate all students, and if they are being negatively impacted by anything, it is our responsibility as school district employees to, as the board stated last night, to take a stance on this.”

The resolution approves the use of Kansas City-based law firm Wagstaff & Cartmell as the attorneys for the district’s lawsuit. During the press conference, it emerged that Superintendent Henry’s brother, Brandon Henry, is an attorney at the law firm, though he will not be working on the case. The district also admitted it did not seek the services of any other law firm.

McWhorter noted that Wagstaff & Cartmell is working on a contingency basis, saying, “There is not one cent of state money, taxes or district funds, being used in this lawsuit.”  He would not, however, disclose the percentage of any resolution or settlement the lawyers would receive, and the legal services agreement between the district and Wagstaff & Cartmell was not made publicly available.

The City of Wichita is a resolution last week to join a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers used a Wichita based firm and published the legal services agreement making clear the 20% contingency agreement for the law firm.

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