3M Earplug Lawsuit

On August 29, 2023, 3M agreed to pay $6 billion for the damages caused to veterans and service members. Veterans Guide is unable to help veterans with joining the 3M earplug lawsuit, however, they may be able to still apply for secondary claims to increase their disability rating. Conditions that can be related to tinnitus include migraines, depression, and vertigo.

UPDATE: Per the recent settlement, we cannot help you apply for a 3M lawsuit, however, you may be able to increase your VA rating by looking into secondary claims as a result of your hearing-related injuries. Examples include: migraines, depression, anxiety, and vertigo to name a few. 

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 Meniere’s disease, 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 often became loose, allowing 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. Hearing devices are required to be tested by the American National Standards Institute and their guidelines. The Institute uses a Noise Reduction Rating system were higher numbers are associated with more effective products that provide better hearing protection. However, 3M and Aearo Technologies used their own laboratory and testing procedures, leading to claims of inappropriate testing.

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. Veterans have also experienced financial burden due to medical bills, loss of future employment and wages, and dealing with a permanent disability.

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.

Disabled veteran

3M Earplug Lawsuit Updates

As of August 2023, over 300,000 cases had been filed towards the 3M lawsuit. Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who oversaw the lawsuit, had reported that the increasing amounts of nonviable cases being created was an obstacle to reaching the settlement. There were tens of thousands of pending cases that were dismissed by the court since the start of the lawsuit. However, this was an essential choice since the cases that were dismissed were nonviable and lacked proper evidence and documentation of the disabilities. Therefore, dismissing the ineligible cases helped the courts focus on plaintiffs who had genuine claims and ensured the numbers weren’t padded.

In September 2022, 16 test cases had 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.

Veterans have filed so many claims against 3M that these lawsuits now account for more than 30% of all cases currently pending in federal court. Most of these 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.  

3M Earplug Lawsuit Settlement

The timeline for 3M lawsuit settlements was dependent on certain factors. Settlement discussions initially occurred in the fall of 2022 but did not result in a settlement. One of the primary factors in settling was 3M’s willingness to consider fair settlement amounts — amounts which would almost assuredly depend on the company’s success in court.

However, the courts had blocked 3M’s legal maneuvers to avoid financial responsibility. The majority of the early cases that had gone to trial had resulted in substantial verdicts against 3M.

On August 29, 2023, a settlement was reached, announcing that 3M has agreed to pay $6 billion to settle its lawsuit with U.S. veterans and service members. This settlement will help to resolve approximately 300,000 lawsuits that were filed against the company and its defective earplugs. With this, over 240,000 people are expected to be eligible for compensation.

Within the terms of the settlement, the company will pay out the money from 2023 to 2029, with $1 billion from the settlement being paid in the form of 3M stock. Additionally, the company has the right to walk away from the deal if less than 98% of the eligible claimants participate. This means that if you have been affected, it is essential to take part in this settlement to ensure it is successful. However, even though the company has agreed to the settlement, they are still not admitting any liability for the effectiveness of the earplugs. They are still in full agreement that the earplugs are effective in preventing hearing injuries when used properly.

Estimates of the company’s liability from the lawsuit have been over $10 billion. However, since $1 billion of the settlement was expected to be given in stocks, the company’s shares have increased over 5% since the settlement was announced. This is only one of 3M’s current lawsuits, as they have also been involved in lawsuits with U.S. public water organizations for polluting the drinking water in many areas with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. As of August 2023, the settlement has gained preliminary approval for 3M to pay out $10.3 billion to public water providers in over 20 U.S. states for polluting public water systems with toxic chemicals. A final hearing for the settlement is expected to occur in February 2024. 


How Much Is the Average Payout for a 3M Case?

With the settlement being roughly $6 billion, and roughly 240,000 people being eligible, the average payout is expected to be around $20,000. However, this is not accurate for each individual as some will receive larger or smaller amounts. Verdicts and settlement amounts will vary widely, depending on the extensiveness and severity of your hearing loss or other injuries resulting from the use of the earplugs. Generally, cases of hearing loss will receive higher payouts than cases of tinnitus or other related injuries. It is always recommended for veterans to seek legal help with an attorney through the process.

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