The U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal 3M Combat Arms Earplugs multidistrict litigation (MDL) has consolidated three different product liability claims into one trial scheduled to go before a federal jury in January 2022. The decision to consolidate the cases comes after a series of three early bellwether trials, two of which resulted in plaintiff verdicts totaling nearly $9 million. Each of the lawsuits brought against 3M Company raises similar allegations that the manufacturer knew the Combat Arms Earplugs it sold to the military were defective and likely to put users at risk for hearing loss, tinnitus, and other lifelong hearing problems. If you or someone you know has suffered hearing loss after using 3M earplugs during combat and military training exercises, contact us today to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against 3M Company.
The earplugs at the center of the largest consolidated federal mass tort in U.S. history are 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), used by veterans and military servicemembers during combat and military training exercises from 2003 to 2015. A growing number of lawsuits claim that a design defect caused the selective attenuation earplugs to loosen in users’ ears, thereby failing to provide them with the expected hearing protection. The earplugs were discontinued in 2015, and in 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the Justice Department to resolve allegations raised in a whistleblower lawsuit that the company knowingly sold the earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing defects that prevented the earplugs from performing as intended.
All Combat Arms Earplug lawsuits filed against 3M in the federal court system have been centralized in the Northern District of Florida for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation. U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers is overseeing the litigation, which currently includes more than 230,000 lawsuits. Plaintiffs seeking compensation from 3M for hearing loss, tinnitus and other hearing-related injuries accuse the company of covering up design flaws, faking test results, and failing to provide instructions on the proper use of the dual-ended earplugs, which were meant to protect users from loud blasts and other high-level noises, while still allowing them to hear low-level noises, like commands and conversation.
The filing of hundreds of thousands of claims raising nearly identical allegations that 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military for decades led to the establishment of three bellwether trials, which were meant to assess the strength of the evidence presented by both sides and gauge how juries would be likely to react to similar evidence and testimony that would be repeated throughout the federal litigation. The consolidated 3M earplug trial scheduled for January 2022 will be similar to the first bellwether trial, which resulted in a massive $7.1 million verdict for the plaintiffs, three veterans who allegedly suffered hearing damage from using 3M earplugs. The federal jury awarded $830,500 in compensatory damages and $2.1 million in punitive damages to each of the plaintiffs to cover their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Following the three Combat Arms Earplug bellwether trials, which were held in April, May and June of this year, plaintiffs requested that the earplug trials scheduled to take place next year combine multiple plaintiffs, given the large number of claims still set to go before juries. Judge Rodgers granted the request, declaring in a July 2 court order that the trial scheduled for January 2022 would be another consolidated trial, rather than having each individual case go before a separate jury. 3M is against the consolidation of combat earplug claims, but as Judge Rodgers stated in the court order, “The Court is unpersuaded by Defendants’ arguments that differences in the state law applicable to each Plaintiff’s claims make consolidation inappropriate.”
Hearing loss is the number one service-related disability among military veterans in the United States. According to the VA, there are currently more than 1.1 million veterans who receive compensation for hearing loss and more than 1.7 million who receive compensation for tinnitus, two debilitating and entirely preventable conditions commonly caused by exposure to high-level combat noises, such as aircraft, gunfire, bombs, and tanks. If you have suffered hearing damage allegedly caused by defective 3M combat earplugs, do not hesitate to speak to an experienced product liability lawyer about your legal options. You may be entitled to damages for the harm you have suffered, which you can pursue by filing a defective earplug lawsuit against 3M Company.