With more than 250,000 claims over 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs included so far in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), the U.S. District Judge overseeing the litigation plans to increase the pace at which trials and discovery proceedings are handled in the coming months. The earplug lawsuits filed against 3M each involve similar allegations that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military for more than a decade, exposing users to an unnecessary risk of hearing loss, tinnitus, and other irreversible hearing damage. If you or someone you love used 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs in the military and has since suffered hearing loss or another permanent side effect of the allegedly defective earplugs, contact us to find out how to proceed. You may have grounds to file a hearing loss lawsuit against 3M in order to recover financial compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.
Hearing loss, tinnitus, and other types of hearing damage are common problems for veterans and military servicemembers who are routinely exposed to loud noises during combat and training exercises. In 2016 alone, more than 1.5 million veterans received disability compensation for tinnitus and more than one million received compensation for hearing loss, reports the American Academy of Audiology. To reduce the risk of these debilitating hearing problems, military servicemembers typically wear noise cancellation earplugs designed to provide hearing protection while still allowing them to hear what is going on around them.
3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, version 2 (CAEv2) were standard issue in all branches of the military from 2003 to 2015 and were designed to protect users’ hearing both in combat and during military training exercises. Featuring a dual-ended design, the earplugs were meant to be inserted one way to block all sounds and the other way to block high-level noises while allowing users to hear conversation and spoken commands. However, a growing number of lawsuits allege that the earplugs did not fit properly in users’ ears, causing them to fall out of place and put users at unnecessary risk for permanent hearing problems like hearing loss and tinnitus. Each combat earplug lawsuit brought against 3M involves claims that the manufacturer sold its defective earplugs to the military without warning that users may face an increased risk of hearing loss and other problems.
The 3M earplug hearing loss lawsuits filed in the federal court system have been centralized for coordinated pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida before Judge Casey Rodgers. Judge Rodgers established an administrative docket for plaintiffs to present claims against 3M and prepared small groups of 3M earplug cases for trial, known as “bellwether” cases. These cases are meant to gauge how juries may react to evidence and testimony that will likely be repeated throughout the litigation. However, the outcome of these early trials will have no bearing on future claims, except to possibly persuade 3M Company to consider earplug hearing loss settlements. Three initial bellwether trials held earlier this year resulted in a $7.1 million verdict for three veterans, a $1.7 million verdict for a single Army veteran, and one defense verdict for 3M.
As veterans and servicemembers continue to attribute their hearing loss and tinnitus to the earplugs they were provided in the military, the number of claims brought against 3M continues to grow. On August 24, 2021, Judge Rodgers stated in a Case Management Order that “Due to the unprecedented backlog of cases piling up on the administrative docket, which tallies over 250,000 cases, the Court deems it necessary to accelerate the bellwether trials and discovery for the remaining mass of cases.” According to the Case Management Order, the parties in the 3M earplug litigation will be required to work up several hundred cases at a time in “waves,” increasing the speed at which the claims are prepared for trial. On August 20, 2021, Judge Rodgers entered the first in a series of “Transition Orders,” moving 1,358 cases from the administrative docket to the active docket and stated that future orders will require plaintiffs to transition 10,000 to 20,000 cases at a time.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans and military servicemembers who used 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs in the military now claim that the earplugs failed to provide them with proper hearing protection. Faced with more than 250,000 such claims awaiting trial in the federal court system, it is likely that the court will consolidate future 3M earplug hearing loss cases for trial in order to avoid substantial delays in resolving the massive litigation. If you served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 and you used 3M earplugs that failed to properly protect your hearing, you may be entitled to financial compensation from 3M Company. To determine whether you are eligible to join the ongoing 3M earplug litigation, contact Consumer Safety Watch today.