The ongoing multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving 3M’s allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplugs has surpassed asbestos as the largest MDL ever. Since its inception in 2018, the Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation has accumulated more than 200,000 actions claiming that 3M knew that the military earplugs, which were standard-issue for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015, were defective and put users at risk for hearing loss, tinnitus and other permanent hearing problems. If you or someone you know served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 and now suffers from serious hearing-related side effects, it could be due to 3M’s allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplugs. Contact us today to find out how we can help.
According to an MDL Statistics Report released by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on October 15, the Combat Arms Earplug MDL, centralized for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, has amassed 203,722 total actions, which pushes it past the 192,200 total actions filed in the asbestos MDL initiated in 1991. The 3M Combat Arms Earplug MDL was established following a 2016 whistleblower lawsuit filed by Moldex-Metric Inc., accusing 3M of violating the False Claims Act by knowingly supplying Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) to the U.S. military without disclosing defects that prevented the earplugs from working properly. Moldex-Metric claimed in the whistleblower lawsuit that 3M and its subsidiary, Aearo Technologies, knew that the CAEv2 were too short to fit properly in users’ ears and therefore did not perform as advertised. 3M settled the lawsuit for $9.1 million in 2018 without admitting liability.
Currently, 3M and Aearo Technologies face more than 150,000 product liability lawsuits filed by current and former soldiers and military personnel who claim that the company’s dual-ended earplugs failed to provide them with proper hearing protection. According to the growing number of 3M military earplug claims, the CAEv2, designed to protect users from potential hearing damage caused by high-level noises from weapons and aircraft in combat or training, had a design defect that allowed the earplugs to loosen imperceptibly during use. As a result of this alleged defect, hundreds of thousands of current and former military servicemembers claim to have suffered permanent hearing loss, noise-induced deafness, tinnitus and other debilitating hearing disorders.
Because the 3M earplug claims involved common questions of fact, “concerning the design, testing, sale, and marketing” of the military earplugs, the JPML transferred the cases to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to be litigated as an MDL before Judge M. Casey Rodgers. The first bellwether trial is scheduled for April 5, 2021, with additional cases to continue throughout the rest of the year. Earlier this month, Judge Rodgers issued an order approving the protocol for conducting hearing tests and medical examinations for the small group of military veterans whose cases have been selected for the early trials. The testing will assess the alleged hearing loss and injuries caused by 3M’s military earplugs, which plaintiffs say are dangerously defective, and the results will be used in the bellwether trials, along with other testimony and evidence presented by both parties.
While the outcomes of the bellwether trials are not binding on other claims pending in the 3M earplug MDL, they could have an impact on any potential negotiations to reach 3M Combat Arms Earplug settlement agreements. A settlement may be necessary if 3M wants to avoid having the thousands of individual defective earplug lawsuits pending against the company remanded back to the courts they were originally filed in and scheduled for future trial dates.
Veterans across the United States and from all branches of the U.S. military have been affected by 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs, and you could be one of them. If you or a loved one has suffered permanent hearing loss, tinnitus or another severe hearing problem you believe to have been caused by defective 3M earplugs, we urge you to contact us today to find out whether you are eligible to file a military earplug injury claim against 3M in court. Hearing injuries like tinnitus and hearing loss can have a significant impact on your quality of life, your professional capabilities and your relationship with loved ones, and we believe 3M and Aearo should be held accountable for their negligence in producing and selling dangerously defective earplugs to the U.S. military.