May 28, 2021 Update: The jury came back with a defense verdict for the 3M today. It is a tough blow for lawyers like me hoped 3M earplug victims would win every single one of these trials. The evidence seems overwhelming. But, certainly, there will be cases where the victims cannot prove 3M’s negligence caused their injuries. I don’t believe this loss changes settlement amounts of the 3m earplug lawsuits.
3M is currently facing over 220,000 individual lawsuits by former military veterans who claim that they suffered hearing damage because of defects in 3M’s earplugs. These cases have been consolidated into a class action MDL in the Northern District of Florida. In an MDL, similar cases are consolidated for purposes of discovery. Once discovery is completed, a few individual test cases are selected for “bellwether” trials.
The results of the bellwether trials are critically important because they usually dictate the terms of a global class settlement. So far, the bellwether trials in the 3M earplugs MDL have gone extremely well for the plaintiffs. Earlier this month the first bellwether trial took place in the Federal courthouse in Sarasota. The case involved the claims of 3 individual plaintiffs, all former military servicemen in their 40s. After a lengthy trial, the jury awarded $7.1 million in total damages with each plaintiff getting around $2.5 million.
The verdict in the first bellwether trial was a decisive victory for all the 3M plaintiffs. The amount of the verdict was much higher than expected. Even more significant, however, was the fact that the jury awarded each plaintiff $2 million in punitive damages. The size of the punitive damage award is a clear indication that the jury was angry with 3M.
- What the first 3M earplug verdict means to victims
Bellwether Earplug Lawsuit Trial Round Two
The 2nd bellwether trial in the 3M earplugs litigation is already underway in Sarasota. The jury in this 2nd bellwether trial will be hearing the claims of 2 plaintiffs: Dustin McCombs (7:20-cv-00094) and Llyod Baker (7:20-cv-00039). These plaintiffs present facts and circumstances that are strikingly similar to those of the plaintiffs in the first bellwether trial.
Dustin McCombs served in the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2011 and then he served in the West Virginia National Guard for a number of years. McCombs’s assignments in the military do not appear to have included anything involving regular exposure to extremely high levels of noise (e.g., helicopters, artillery, etc.). During his time in the Army McCombs was issued 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs which he first used in basic training. Prior to his military service, McCombs had not had any tinnitus or hearing issues. Several years after he left the Army, however, McCombs was diagnosed with tinnitus in both ears.
Llyod Baker spent a decade in the Army from 2002 through 2012. Baker was also issued Combat Arms Earplugs and used them for basic training, Airborne Jump School, and throughout his service career. During his time in the service, Baker frequently used the earplugs during exposure to loud noises such as on the shooting range, warfare training, and while riding in personnel carriers. At enlistment, Baker’s hearing was perfectly normal. Shortly after discharge, Baker was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus.
What to Expect from Second 3M Earplug Trial?
There is very little, if anything, to distinguish Baker and McCombs from the 3 plaintiffs in the first bellwether.
They are all former service members who entered the military at a young age and with no hearing damage. They all received and wore the Combat Arms Earplugs during their time in the service and soon after being discharged, they were diagnosed with tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Given the factual similarities between the plaintiffs, there is every reason to expect that the 2nd bellwether trial will end in a result very similar to the 1st trial.
There are some variables that could potentially generate a different outcome. For starters, the composition of the jury in round 2 could be significantly different. Jurors with different perspectives could react very differently to the allegations of corporate greed and wrongdoing that motivated the last jury to hit 3M with a big punitive damage award.
The other potentially significant variable that could affect the result in round 2 is the credibility and effectiveness of the witnesses. This jury is going to hear the same general type of evidence and testimony that the last jury heard, but the witnesses will be different. The personality and manner of a witness can make a huge impact on how effective he or she is at convincing the jury.
The 2nd bellwether trial began last Monday, May 17, 2021. The judge issued a detailed order strictly limiting the length of the trial. Assuming this order is followed, the case should be turned over to the jury at the end of this week, Friday, May 28, 2021. In the first bellwether trial, the jury began deliberations Friday morning and issued their verdict by the end of the day. We could see a similar time frame in this case.
Could This Second 3M Earplug Trial End with a Settlement?
I’ve been saying all along with 3M earplug trial could end in a settlement. 3M would be foolish to let another case go to verdict. (This sentence did not age as well as I would have liked, given the plaintiffs’ defeat in the second trial. )
A settlement would be a smart stalling tactic to let the enthusiasm of the first verdict pass in the hopes of getting a better settlement deal. (Then again, I’m surprised they let the first case go to verdict. They had to know they were very likely to lose.)
Is the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Legitimate?
More than any mass tort claim, our lawyers get questions to whether the 3M earplug lawsuit are legitimate. Yes, the cases are legitimate and 3 serviceman have 9.1 million reasons to believe they are legitimate with the verdict they received.
Call Our 3M Earplug Lawyers Today
If you suffered hearing loss after using 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs in the military you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injury. Miller & Zois is currently looking for potential 3M defective earplug lawsuits for victims around the country.
Contact us and we can investigate your case and tell you whether you may have a valid claim against 3M. There is not a lot required from you at this point besides filling out a 3M earplug lawsuit claim form. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.