3M Earplug Lawsuit
If you are a veteran who has suffered hearing loss or tinnitus and you used 3M earplugs during your military career, you may be able to file suit against 3M. Although a few cases have already been decided, the vast majority are still in the early stages.
Veterans have filed more than 230,000 lawsuits against 3M, claiming that the company supplied defective earplugs to service members between 2003 and 2016. These veterans allege that using these defective earplugs during their military service caused them to suffer hearing loss, tinnitus, and loss of balance, among other things.
The veterans believe that 3M knew the earplugs were defective and supplied them to the military anyway.
What Was Wrong With 3M Earplugs?
According to the lawsuits, the earplugs — which 3M intended to protect the hearing of military personnel while allowing them to hear sounds when they were on the battlefield — were defectively designed and allowed too much sound to get in.
Service members are regularly exposed to dangerously high decibel levels of sound during training and combat. These levels caused significant hearing issues, so military personnel received earplugs to protect their hearing.
In addition to the defective design of the earplugs, the manufacturer falsified test results and did not provide proper instruction for using the earplugs.
The earplugs at issue are the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2). The earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies LLC, which 3M purchased in 2007 for $1.2 billion.
The lawsuits allege that the earplug manufacturer knew as early as 2000 that the earplugs were defectively designed, but widespread awareness of the design defect did not occur until 2016 when a whistleblower lawsuit was filed.
Injuries Resulting from the Use of Defective 3M Earplugs
Veterans who used the defective 3M earplugs have experienced hearing problems, including hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in their ears). Some have experienced a loss of balance because of damage caused by the 3M earplugs.
These veterans allege that hearing loss and tinnitus have made it harder to connect with their families and enjoy things they used to love, such as music and movies.
Soldiers used the CAEv2 earplugs in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 until 2016. They were also used in military training during that time. If you were in the military and used earplugs issued by the military in the course of service or training, you likely used the defective 3M earplugs.
Proving Your Claims Against 3M
To file a 3M lawsuit for injuries resulting from the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, you will need to provide the court with certain documents, including:
Does a 3M Lawsuit Affect VA Disability?
No. Receiving compensation from a private company such as 3M does not affect your VA disability benefits. VA disability benefits are generally only affected by a lawsuit against the U.S. government.
The VA considers that to be “double-dipping” because you would be paid by the government twice, once for the lawsuit and again for your VA benefits. Lawsuits against private companies do not have the same problem because you would receive your award or settlement from 3M.
3M Earplug Lawsuit Updates
Veterans have filed so many claims against 3M that these lawsuits now account for more than 30 percent of all cases currently pending in federal court. Most of the cases have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in Pensacola, Florida, which is the biggest multidistrict litigation in history and as of December 15, 2022 has 262,048 actions pending.
As of September, 16 test cases have gone to trial. 3M has lost 10 of these cases, and the 13 plaintiffs in those cases have been awarded nearly $300 million in damages. At least one of those plaintiffs had his damages reduced by the court due to state laws setting maximum limits on the amount someone can receive in certain kinds of damages.
However, that plaintiff’s award was reduced to $21.7 million, still an enormous sum for an individual plaintiff, especially considering the number of lawsuits remaining.
Because 3M has appealed these judgments, the company has not yet paid any of the awards. 3M has also recently attempted to avoid financial responsibility for these suits using several legal maneuvers, including having the subsidiary that manufactured the earplugs, Aearo Technologies LLC, file bankruptcy and trying to spin off Aearo. But the courts are not having it.
In the Aearo bankruptcy case, filed in an Indiana bankruptcy court, Aearo asked the court to stay (or pause) the lawsuits in Florida against 3M and move them to the bankruptcy court.
In bankruptcy cases, the court often stays lawsuits against the debtor (the company that filed for bankruptcy) in other courts, moving them to the bankruptcy court so the cases can be sorted out along with the rest of the debtor’s finances.
However, that does not usually include lawsuits against the debtor’s parent company. Because the earplug lawsuits were filed against 3M, Aearo’s parent company, and not just Aearo, the Indiana bankruptcy court refused to agree to stay the earplug lawsuits against 3M.
Aearo filed an appeal of the bankruptcy court’s decision While the appeals of the test cases and the bankruptcy court decision are pending, the remaining earplug lawsuits in Florida are on hold.
When Will 3M Lawsuits Settle?
The timeline for 3M lawsuit settlements depends on many factors. Settlement discussions occurred in the fall of 2022 but did not result in a settlement. One of the primary factors in settling is 3M’s willingness to consider fair settlement amounts — amounts which will almost assuredly depend on the company’s success in court.
Most of the lawsuits against 3M are in the early stages. This spring, the Florida federal court handling the cases began transferring them from an administrative docket to an active docket. That means many of the veterans who filed these suits have only started to pay court filing fees and the cases are still in the early stages of litigation.
Further, 3M’s attempt to have its Aearo Technologies subsidiary file bankruptcy has paused these cases while 3M appeals the bankruptcy court’s decision, and legal experts do not expect that appeal to be decided until mid-2023.
However, the courts have blocked 3M’s recent legal maneuvers to avoid financial responsibility. The majority of the early cases that have gone to trial have resulted in substantial verdicts against 3M. Hundreds of thousands of cases remain.
The next six to eight months will be pivotal, depending on the success of 3M’s appeals. Depending on those results, 3M may agree to higher settlement amounts for the remaining veterans to avoid a potentially catastrophic avalanche of future verdicts.
How Much Will the Average Payout for a 3M Case Be?
No one is certain how much the average payout for a 3M case may be. Much depends on what happens in the courts over the next six to eight months. However, verdicts and settlement amounts will vary widely. The more extensive your hearing loss or other injury resulting from your use of the earplugs, the higher the payout you can expect.
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