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3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit Attorneys

Thousands of veterans and current military service members may be entitled to receive financial compensation in the 3M earplug lawsuit for hearing loss and tinnitus caused by defective earplugs.

Our lawyers are handling 3M earplug lawsuits in all 50 states. If you have a potential claim, do not delay. Call us at 800-553-8082.

Before we get to the meat of what the 3M Combat Arms earplug lawsuits are about, our attorneys first get you updated on the latest news in the 3M earplug litigation.


3M EARPLUG LAWSUIT UPDATES:

May 20, 2022: $77.5 Million Verdict!  The final 3M earplug bellwether trial concluded this afternoon and the result was the largest amount awarded to single plaintiff so far. After a 2-week trial, the federal jury in Pensacola awarded Army veteran James Beal a total of $77.5 million in damages for his claims that 3M’s defective ear plugs caused hearing loss and tinnitus. This award brings the total amount of damages in the bellwether trials to $300 million. 

May 19, 2022Day 8 of the trial featured live testimony from 3M expert witness Dr. John Casali from Virginia Tech University. Casali is 3M's go-to expert, a prominent authority in audiology, acoustics, and hearing protection. 3M has used him in an expert in all of the bellwether trials. In addition to Casali’s testimony, 3M’s lawyers presented the jury with clips of video deposition testimony from several witnesses, including the plaintiff’s wife. 

May 18, 2022On Day 7 of the trial, 3M’s defense team presented testimony from Eric Fallon and Dr. James Crawford. Fallon holds a doctorate in audiology and works for 3M as a Technical Senior Service Specialist. Dr. Crawford is an ENT doctor specializing in hearing protection. Both Fallon and Crawford also spent over 20 years in the Army.

May 17, 2022:  Let's get you caught up to speed on what is happening in the Beal trial. The first  two days of the trial featured nearly eight hours of testimony from the plaintiffs’ leading expert witness, bioacoustics engineer Richard McKinley. McKinley has been a prominent witness in all of the previous bellwether trials. 

On Day 3 of the trial, the plaintiffs presented testimony from Elliott Berger. Berger, as every reader of these updates knows, is a former 3M audiology scientist and head of the 3M Personal Safety Division. Berger was one of the people directly involved in the original design and testing of the 3M earplugs at issue in the lawsuits and he has been a key witness in all of the cases. 

On Day 4 of the trial, the plaintiff James Beal took the stand in the morning. Beal’s testimony was followed in the afternoon by the plaintiff’s expert Dr. Christopher Spankovich, a clinical audiologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. 

On the 5th day of trial, the plaintiffs presented testimony from another expert, Dr. Mark Packer. Dr. Packer is an Ear Nose & Throat specialist at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. Dr. Packer was a key witness in the Sloan/Wayman bellwether trial that resulted in a $110 million verdict against 3M. 

Day 6 of the trial featured a series of short video deposition clips from a variety of witnesses including the plaintiff’s wife, Heather Beal, and several other fact witnesses, including friends or family members of Mr. Beal. 

May 17, 2022:  In March, bellwether plaintiff Ronald Sloan was awarded $55 million on his earplug lawsuits against 3M, which included $15 million in compensatory and $40 million in punitive damages. 3M has not yet paid any of this verdict because they are pursuing legal defense on appeal that would potentially eliminate the earplug lawsuits. In the meantime, however, Sloan filed a motion asking for prejudgment interest on the $15 million in compensatory damages. Judge Rodgers denied that motion. Why? Sloan’s claims are governed by Kentucky law. Judge Rogers ruled that KY law does not allow prejudgment interest on awards for “bodily harm.”

May 16, 2022:  Just as the first week of the Beal bellwether trial was wrapping up on Friday, the MDL Judge issued a show cause order threatening to hit 3M’s defense lawyers with sanctions for “willful abuse of the trial process.” Judge Rogers has had a long history of frustration with 3M’s defense counsel dating back over two years. This latest admonishment came after 3M’s lawyers sought to defy long-standing procedural rules regarding deposition designations. 

This morning, 3M’s lawyers filed a response to the show cause order attempting to justify their position.  This ongoing dispute between Judge Rogers and 3M’s defense attorneys won’t have any impact on the outcome of the Beal trial. But 3M's lawyers are frustrated. There is often turmoil on losing teams. But it seems unwise to go out of your way to create acrimony with the judge and the judge who is trying the Beal case. (Even more bizarrely, the judge trying Beal is the Zantac MDL judge and this same law firm is defending Zantac lawsuits). It is inexplicable and it is not advancing 3M's interests.  It is also a distraction from the path to a fair settlement that is in everyone's interest.  

May 11, 2022: Over 20,000 3M earplug lawsuits were dismissed from the 3M earplug class action lawsuit this week after the plaintiffs failed to file the necessary paperwork required to keep their case active. The missing paperwork that prompted most of the dismissals was the plaintiff’s military service record (DD214). 

We never like to see plaintiffs have their cases dismissed. But this might actually get us a step closer to a global settlement of the earplug lawsuits. One of the main obstacles to a 3M earplug settlement are the massive number of plaintiffs (around 270,000). 3M is convinced that not all of these plaintiffs have valid claims. Our lawyers and many soldiers we have talked to agree with 3M on this point. Getting this class action down to the soldiers who were truly harmed will advance an earplug settlement.  

May 9, 2022The last 3M earplug bellwether trial begins today for Army veteran James Beal. The trial is scheduled to last 2 weeks and will be conducted before Judge Robin L. Rosenberg at the federal courthouse in Pensacola. The trial is already off to a good start. Last week, the MDL judge granted a summary judgment motion by Beal which effectively blocks 3M from presenting nearly all of their affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence. 

One encouraging thing our 3M earplug lawyers saw over the weekend was an article by NBC News on the 3M earplug lawsuit. Getting the 3M litigation into the mainstream media has oddly been a struggle given there are 300,000 soldiers bringing claims. This type of unwanted attention might help grease the wheels of a global settlement payout for victims. 

May 4, 2022:  Yesterday, the 3M earplug MDL judge issued a new Case Management Order (CMO # 44) ordering 20,197 earplug lawsuits in the MDL to be moved from the administrative docket onto the active docket. 

This appears to be the first initial step in move toward Phase 2 of the earplug bellwether trials. The plan is for these 20,197 earplug lawsuits to go through pretrial discovery - a daunting process with such a massive group of plaintiffs. The claims would then be sent to their home fedeal court districts for trial. Each trial will involve large blocks of consolidated plaintiffs. 

The logistics of actually taking these cases to trial is hard to image.  It is easy to forget that a sample size of on for an MDL class action of this size.  This is the largest MDL in history. 

The earplug bellwether trials with one plaintiff have required two weeks each. A consolidated trial involving 20 or 40 plaintiffs could last for months and would place 3M at a significant disadvantage, battling against that many soldiers and their families in a courtoom. 

May 3, 2022: The 16th and last MDL trial will start Monday, May 9, 2022 for James Beal's injury claim against 3M for its defective earplugs.  After this trial, Judge Rodgers will send these lawsuits around the country to be tried in waves.  This is not a good dynamic for 3M who would rather not battle a group of soldiers in the courtroom.  At the same time, the plaintiffs' brief in response to 3M's appeal is due in the 11th Circuit early next month. 

If you follow the history of mass tort settlements, there is no question that this moment seems opportune for a global settlement deal in the 3M litigation.  But there are no guarantees. 

April 29, 2022 Update: The jury went out in Vaughn yesterday and is still out.  The jury has asked three questions of the judge during deliberations.  Update: 3:30 EST no verdict yet. Update: $2.2 million verdict. 

3M has two choices it seems.  Risk the entire company on a long shot appeal.  Or offer our soldiers reasonable settlement compensation payouts to resolve these cases.  

April 26, 2022 Update: The Vaughn trial continued into its 7th day today.  You can expect a verdict at the end of the week. 

April 19, 2022: The Vaughn trial started yesterday. The trial is expected to take two weeks and will be tried before Judge Stephen Grimberg

April 14, 2022 Update: One of the most common questions our lawyers get from soldiers is when will the 3M lawsuits settle? No one knows. But June 27, 2022, is an important date to file away. This is the plaintiffs' deadline to file their opposition brief in Hacker/Estes/Keefer. After this brief is filed, there will be oral arguments and a ruling from the 11th Circuit.

3M EARPLUG LAWSUIT

This will be the big test of 3M's government contractor defense. Our lawyers have always said that 3M would be foolish to let the 11th Circuit rule on this before settling the lion's share of these lawsuits. Why? Because if it loses and the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to take the case, 3M will have fired the last arrow in its quiver. At that point, why not keep trying these cases when the average successful jury payout is around $20 million?

Failing to reach a settlement before that ruling would be an existential threat to 3M, a company founded 120 years ago. Hard to believe that would be a risk worth taking.

April 13, 2022 Update: Most of the nearly 300,000 plaintiffs in the 3M earplugs litigation have their cases on the “administrative docket.” This allows these soldiers - their lawyers, really, - to hold off on paying the $402 federal filing fee while their lawsuit is in "hold" mode. 3M filed a motion seeking to force all these plaintiffs to pay their filing fees immediately or be dismissed. But "spite" is not a ground to have a motion granted.

Everyone can agree there are some frivolous 3M earplug lawsuits in the 300,000 that are in the MDL class action. But the motion 3M's lawyers filed does not weed out those cases. As the judge said in denying the motion, "Filing frivolous motions will not 'winnow' frivolous cases."

April 11, 2022 Update: Jonathan Vaughn's trial begins on Monday the 14th bellwether.

April 8, 2022 Update #2: Unfortunately, the jury found 3M in the Kelley trial. This was a difficult case for the plaintiff. This is a good time to remember that the average jury payout in a 3M earplug lawsuit in the last 30 days has dropped to just over $19 million.

April 8, 2022 Update: On Day 8 of the trial, 3M wrapped up the testimony of Dr. Casali in the morning and devoted the remainder of the day to presenting expert testimony from Dr. James Crawford. Dr. Crawford is an otolaryngologist who spent 24 years as a doctor in the U.S. Army, specializing in hearing conservation. 3M also filed a motion to bar the plaintiff from offering rebuttal testimony from Dr. Eric Gershwin on procedural grounds.

April 7, 2022 Update: Day 7 of the Kelley trial featured testimony from 2 of 3M’s expert witnesses. In the morning, the jury heard from Jennifer LaBorde, doctor of audiology and hearing aid specialist from the Hearing Center MCC. After lunch, Dr. John Casali took the stand. Casali is 3M's go-to expert in its fight against soldiers seeking compensation for their hearing-related injuries. He is a well-known expert in the field of hearing protection and acoustics and a professor at Virginia Tech University.

April 6, 2022 Update: 3M began presenting its defense with the testimony of Dr. Eric Fallon. Dr. Fallon is the former chief Audiologist at Walter Reed Medical Center. So he sounds pretty credible at first glance. Who does he work for now? 3M.

As they have done in all of the previous bellwether trials, attorneys for 3M also filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law arguing that punitive damages should be off the table because the plaintiff failed to meet her burden under Texas law.

March 30, 2022 Update: Day 2 of the Kelley trial was devoted to the testimony of Elliott Berger. Berger is retired a 3M scientist and former head of the company’s Personal Safety Division. His testimony has been a focus of all 13 3M earplug bellwether trials. Berger's testimony is crucial because he was a central figure in the original design and development of the Combat Arms Earplugs. Berger has been critical in establishing that there were design flaws in the earplugs that were not revealed to the Army.

March 29, 2022 Update: On the opening day of the Kelley trial, jury selection began in the morning and was finished by lunchtime. Opening statements for both sides began around 2 p.m. and ended two hours later. Then the jury heard video testimony from Ron Kieper, a former employee at 3M with knowledge of the company’s handling of issues with the earplugs.

March 27, 2022 Update: In a historical weekend in the 3M earplug litigation, the Wilkerson jury came back yesterday with an $8 million verdict. 3M was counting on winning Wilkerson to keep afloat the idea that "they win some, we win some" and only the best 3M earplug lawsuits have real value. The company is running out of arguments for its shareholders for not offering fair compensation payouts to victims.

March 26, 2022 Update: The jury awarded $50 million in the bellwether trial of Luke Vilsmeyer yesterday. This is another game-changing verdict for plaintiffs that is sure to drive settlement amounts in these cases north. It proves that the $110 million verdict was not a one-off. This is a huge victory. Big verdicts are becoming the norm. (Video on $50 million verdict.)

Let's put this in context. This stunning award marks three consecutive verdicts that were more than $50 million. This is pretty much the nightmare scenario for 3M. Sure, 3M can say it has won 5 trials out of 12 and juries have gone back and forth. But the stunning size of these verdicts is not what anyone expected. This case was tried under Indiana law (and Washington law, too, it is confusing) so there were no punitive damages available. Punitive damages drove the Sloan/Wayman verdicts. So incredibly, this jury awarded $50 million in purely compensatory damages.

The jury is still out in Wilkerson and there will likely be a verdict on Monday. Another 3M earplug trial starts Monday, too. 3M needs to shut this down and offer victims reasonable settlement amounts before taking any more verdicts. At some point, 3M needs to rationalize/accept that buying Aearo was a mistake made by a lot of people who no longer work for 3M. Shouldn't it just pay for that mistake and move on before 3M is destroyed for a generation by this litigation?

March 25, 2022 Update: At the close of the plaintiff’s case on Tuesday, 3M immediately filed a Motion for Judgement as a Matter of Law (a tactic they have employed in all of the previous bellwether trials). In the motion, 3M argued that the evidence presented by Wilkerson failed to prove that his hearing damage was caused by 3M’s earplugs. Yesterday, Judge Walker issued a 1-page order denying 3M’s Motion. His reasons for the denial were stated orally from the bench.

March 21, 2022 Update: The Wilkerson bellwether trial appears to be running on schedule and we will hopefully get a verdict Friday afternoon. Over the weekend, Judge Mark Walker ruled on the various objections to the proposed jury instructions and 3M filed a stipulation as to the company's current net worth ($12.39 billion). If the jury decides to award punitive damages, 3M's net worth stipulation will be used to help determine the appropriate amount.

March 16, 2022 Update: The 12th, 13th, and 14th bellwether trials are underway in Tallahassee. Watch our recent video for an overview of the results from the 3M earplug bellwether trials so far.

March 12, 2022 Update: Shortly before the Wilkerson trial, 3M filed a motion arguing (among other things) that Wilkerson’s claims should be dismissed under the judicial estoppel rule because he failed to list his lawsuit against 3M as an asset in his recent bankruptcy. Judge Rogers rejected this argument and denied the motion. In her memorandum Order, Judge Rogers explained that 3M’s argument failed because there was no evidence that Wilkerson intentionally concealed his claims against 3M to manipulate his bankruptcy. Judge Rogers correctly pointed out that Wilkerson’s bankruptcy was a Chapter 13 under which his creditors were being repaid in full, therefore, failing to list the 3M lawsuit as an asset made zero difference.

March 8, 2022 Update: The judge in the 3M earplugs MDL granted summary judgment for the plaintiff in the upcoming bellwether trial for Steven Wilkerson. Wilkerson was seeking summary judgment on all 3M’s affirmative defenses - learned intermediary, superseding cause, failure to mitigate, open and obvious danger, and statute of limitations defense. Wisconsin law controls this lawsuit.

Judge Rogers ruled in favor of Wilkerson and granted summary judgment on four out of the five affirmative defenses. The only affirmative defense that Judge Rogers denied summary judgment on was the statute of limitations. Judge Rogers deferred a ruling on the statute of limitations until the evidence unfolds at trial.

You hope the statute of limitations question is not on the jury sheet. But the judge might still kick out this defense before trial. Moreover, it is unlikely a jury will hear the evidence in this case and rule against Wilkerson on the statute of limitations but would have otherwise given him an award. So this solid victory for Wilkerson overall.

March 3, 2022 Update: With the next trials less than two weeks away, 3M has docketed its first 3M earplug verdict appeal. Most gist of the appeal is the Feres Doctrine and the government contractor defense our lawyers dissect at length below. The 3M's lawyers have one quote in their brief with which our attorneys could not agree more: "The size and importance of this MDL is hard to overstate."

February 25, 2022 Update: What we have learned so far in the 14 verdicts in these cases: the plaintiff matters. So with the next 3M trial, just days away, let's look at the operative facts in the 3M earplug lawsuit.

Steven Wilkerson enlisted in the United States Army in 1999. He served for three years. In 2005, he began eight years of service in the Army National Guard. Wilkerson was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and Lucedale, Mississippi.

From 2010 to 2011, Wilkerson was deployed in Afghanistan. Like other soldiers, he wore the CAEv2. Mr. Wilkerson was exposed to typical noises of war in Afghanistan you would expect. He suffers from bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss. Medical experts are expected to testify on this behalf that his bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss were caused by the lack of protection the CAEv2 provided to him in Afghanistan.

Wisconsin law, which has a high bar and a cap on punitive damages, will apply to this case. This is one of the reasons, along with mild hearing loss and only 11 months of earplug use, 3M wants to try this case and why our lawyers believe a settlement is unlikely before this trial.

Luke Vilsmeyer was a Green Beret who suffers tinnitus and hearing loss. His case will be tried in Florida under Indiana law (no punitive damages in Indiana).

February 14, 2022 Update: After the $110 million verdict in the most recent bellwether trial, Wall Street is finally starting to pay attention to the 3M earplug litigation. With around 280,000 individual plaintiffs, the earplug litigation against 3M is the biggest consolidated mass tort in history. But it has gone largely unnoticed by 3M investors and financial analysts. Last week, however, a top analyst at JP Morgan warned that 3M’s potential litigation liabilities could potentially top $100 billion. This type of sober analysis might compel 3M to consider offering reasonable settlement amounts to resolve these lawsuits.

February 9, 2022 Update: The Sloan/Wayman trial that gave us the $110 million verdict was the last bellwether case in Trial Group C. After a brief pause this month, the Group D trials will start next month. First, up will be the case of Steven Wilkerson which will go to trial on March 14, 2022, before Judge Lisa Wood in the Tallahassee division. Two weeks later, Denise Kelley's earplug lawsuit will go to trial in Pensacola on March 28, 2022. Kelley will be only the second female bellwether plaintiff. So here is the 3M earplug trial schedule:

  • Wilkerson March 14, 2022
  • Kelley March 28, 2022
  • Vaughn April 18, 2022
  • Beal May 9, 2022
  • Vilsmeyer May 9, 2022

February 3, 2022 Update: It is quiet in the aftermath of the big $110 million verdict in which both plaintiffs received $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages. Our lawyers are still waiting for the aftershocks and hoping to see 3M finally offer real settlement amounts to victims. Will that happen? There will be a pause until the Group B trials start in March. We should know soon if 3M is ready to begin real settlement negotiations.

Below is a summary of this case day by day. We said this was a big trial in this litigation, right? But we had no idea it would be this big.

Let's put this in context. Plaintiffs are now 9-5 in the 3M earplug lawsuit trials. Plaintiffs are 9-5 in 11 trials (3 with multiple plaintiffs). The total compensation awarded has been $162,992,820. The average compensation payout has been $17.9 million for the 9 winning plaintiffs ($11.6 million is the average for 3M lawsuits that have gone to trial when you factor in the losses). It is stunning. Our lawyers had high expectations for these cases but no one could have predicted this.

SEE 2021 3M LAWSUIT UPDATES


About the 3M Earplug Lawsuits

3M is the St. Paul-based manufacturer and seller of an earplug called Combat Arms. These dark green and yellow earplugs were originally developed by Aearo Technologies, a company 3M bought in 2008. This makes 3M liable for conduct both before and after 2008.

Thousands of soldiers suffered complete or partial hearing loss and tinnitus because of faulty combat earplugs. Combat Arms Earplugs left veterans entirely unprotected from damaging high-level sounds. Our lawyers are handling these cases.

3M earplugs were standard issue equipment intended to protect service members from hearing loss. 3M had an exclusive contract with the U.S. military via the U.S. Department of Defense. The company admitted, however, that the earplugs were defective and did nothing to protect soldiers from significant hearing loss, subjecting them to the risk of deafness.

This means that anyone who served in the military from 2003 to 2015 and suffered permanent hearing damage has a potential product liability lawsuit against the earplug manufacturer.

Where 3M Went Wrong with These Dual-Ended Earplugs

U.S. service members are often exposed to very loud noises from things like aircraft, artillery, guns, and explosives. Without some sort of ear protection, repeated exposure to these types of high-level noises will cause auditory ailments from internal damage to the eardrums.

The nonlinear dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 ("CAEv2") was supposed to protect users by filtering peak-level noises. They were developed by Aearo Technologies which eventually sold their company to 3M.

The design of these earplugs was a comedy of errors. One big problem was that they were too small for the Army’s carrying case. They also made the fit of a soldier’s helmet somewhat of a challenge.

So what did they do? They modified the design by shortening the earplugs. So now they fit. But the device did not go deeply into the ear. So the design flaw was that the stem of the earplug was too short for soldiers with large, or even normal, ear canals.

3M Knew the Earplugs Were Defective

3M was aware that the dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were a defective product but failed to disclose this to the military. Why? There were probably many reasons. But, usually, follow the money, right? These earplugs cost 85 cents to make. They were sold to the military for $7.63.

Most of those soldiers were not being protected at all by the defective earplugs and ended up suffering permanent loss of hearing. These veterans can now sue 3M and demand financial compensation.

Many veterans that call us are wondering if the 3M cases are legit or whether this is all some scam. We get it. There are no guarantees of success. But it is also true that there is no cost to bring a claim and no risk. It is all upside for you. And for the vast majority of plaintiffs, filing a claim requires very little effort.

3M Earplugs Questions Our Lawyers Are Commonly Asked
3M Earplug Lawsuit How Much Money Will I Get?

Based on prior verdicts and settlements in cases involving hearing loss, we expect the trial value of 3M earplug cases to be somewhere between $25,000 and $300,000 per person (notwithstanding the over $2 million per person the plaintiffs received in the first hearing protection trials). The settlement payouts will likely be less.

Is this naked speculation? It is. No one knows for sure and the average value is impossible to estimate. Certainly, the expected average individual settlement amount is rising based on these three verdicts. If 3M foolishly continues to try these cases, the compensation payouts in this litigation will likely soar.

How much money veterans will ultimately be getting will depend on the severity of the level of hearing loss. Severe hearing damage lawsuits will be valued higher than tinnitus-only lawsuits.

How Do You Qualify For A Earplug Lawsuit?

Our law firm is reviewing claims that meet the following criteria:

  1. You served in the military between 2003 to 2015
  2. You wore military issued earplugs during service
  3. You were exposed to loud sounds during military service
  4. You have been diagnosed with hearing loss/tinnitus

If you meet these criteria, all you need to do is contact our office to get your 3M earplug claim filed.

How Much Do You Pay A Lawyer For A 3M Lawsuit?

Most law firms, including ours, handle these cases on a contingency fee basis. So there is no upfront payment and no fees or expenses unless you recover money for your injuries.

How Much Longer Will 3M Earplug Lawsuit Take?

Based on prior mass tort product liability cases, we anticipate that it will be a year or two before a global settlement is reached with 3M in the earplug litigation. This is frustrating. But the wheels of a mass tort claim move slowly. So 3M earplug plaintiffs should not expect to receive any settlement compensation until late 2021 at the earliest.

Has Anyone Received a Settlement In 3M Earplug Lawsuit?

No. To date, no plaintiff has settled a 3M earplug lawsuit. Thousands of individual plaintiffs have filed claims against 3M in the defective earplugs lawsuits. As of January 2022, none of these claims have been settled.

But with these three trials completed, it is hard to say what will get 3M in more of a reasonable settlement posture. (It might just be hedge funds accessing the risk and shorting 3M stock on the litigation risk. At some point, someone will notice that the largest mass tort in American history is averaging over $1 million per verdict while 3M's stock price keeps rising.)

Will Filing a 3M Earplug Lawsuit Affect My Disability?

Filing a lawsuit against 3M for hearing loss related to defective earplugs is unlikely to have any impact on your eligibility to receive disability benefits. But this is something our lawyers will discuss with you.

What Is Going on Now With the 3M Earplug Lawsuit?

Right now, the current status of the 3M class action litigation is that trials will continue to go. The big question for victims is when will the 3M lawsuit be settled? 3M has yet to make the kind of compensation offered to veterans to settle these cases fairly. This means more trials. The fourteenth hearing protection lawsuit begins on April 18, 2022.

Potential Settlement Value of 3M Combat Arms Lawsuits

Let's go back to the individual settlement value of these cases because all victims have a keen interest in claim value. Jury verdicts and reported settlements amounts in other tinnitus or hearing loss cases suggest an average individual settlement compensation from $50,000 to $300,000 in compensation.

Will this be the settlement value for the 3M lawsuits? The trial value could be in this range or even higher (much higher for the first three victims, as it turns out). The global settlement value - the resolution of almost all of the claims at one time - would likely be less because you rarely get trial value in a mass tort settlement.

The other factor is the sheer volume of these lawsuits. This 3M lawsuit is the largest mass tort in American history. 3M has maybe $35 billion in assets and is worth approximately $100 billion. Let's assume there are 200,000 legitimate cases and the average settlement payout is $100,000 per person. That is $20 billion. So that is an issue that plaintiffs' lawyers have to deal with in these cases.

Little More 3M Litigation History to April 2022

Three years ago, in January 2019, an earplug victim's attorney filed a motion asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all defective earplug cases to a single federal court for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

3m earplug lawsuit timeline

The court granted this motion in March and the earplug cases are now consolidated in the Northern District of Florida under Judge M. Casey Rodgers. This is called an MDL, which is like a class action lawsuit for pre-trial discovery purposes. This is the first step in the hopes of a favorable global military hearing protection settlement with 3M that would give most victims a reasonable amount of money without ever having to go to court.

What does it mean to you that the JPML consolidated all the federal earplug claims in Florida? It means that no matter where you are, your lawsuit will most likely be housed in Florida while these lawsuits proceed through the multidistrict litigation process.

All you need to do is provide a small bit of information. The hope is that 3M will come to its senses and offer settlement amounts that will encourage the victims to settle their cases out of court. But the per-person payouts have to be high enough to entice victims to settle.

July 2020 Update: How is the litigation in Tampa going so far? Newly released documents have the answer. Pretty well. Why? Because 3M's witnesses are not doing so well. Here is one example. A company witness in the MDL class action was questioned as to his opinion on the appropriateness of the company concealing information about potential defects in the military earplugs from the government.

No one is going to say that it is okay to conceal information about defects from the military. Right? Nope. This former vice president at Aearo Technologies told the plaintiffs' attorney, "I suppose it is if the product is working in most cases."

In another deposition, a plaintiffs' lawyer asked a sales manager if veterans were "entitled to know" that the way 3M tested the dual-ended combat arms earplugs was different from the way the device would be used in battle. His answer: "I don't believe so." This is the kind of stuff that puts 3M's face in the mud and helps get these cases settled more quickly.

3M's Defense

3M big defense, that they seemed certain would succeed, to end these cases before they began was asserting that all claims are preempted the “Feres” doctrine. Our lawyers looked at the applicable law and believed the plaintiffs would defeat this argument. We were right.

The plan was to invoke the government contractor defense as a shield from state tort liability using the Feres doctrine. This doctrine arose out of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Feres v. the United States. Specifically, the doctrine provides a guideline for when our servicemen and women may file a claim for personal injuries. The doctrine bars service members and civilian government employees from bringing claims against the U.S. government for injuries that arose out of or were sustained while engaged in activity “incident to service.”

That does not sound good, right? But the Supreme Court decision in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp in 1988 updates Feres and made our attorneys confident we would prevail. This case promulgates a two-part test that determines a state law can be displaced:

  1. The claim is uniquely of federal interest; and
  2. There is a significant conflict between “federal policy or interests and state law” or if applying the state law would “frustrate specific objectives of federal legislation”

The decision then lays out a three-part test that provides a claim is pre-empted:

  1. The U.S. approved reasonably precise specifications;
  2. The equipment conformed to those precise specifications; and
  3. The supplier warned the U.S. of the danger associated with the equipment that only the supplier knew of. Applying these tests, product liability attorneys do not think there will be issues with preemption because although 3M knew of the defect and danger associated with using them, they never informed the U.S. military of those dangers (we wrote this two years ago and it held up).

3M's fatal problem is the third prong of the Boyle preemption test. Is the U.S. military going to say that they did know of the danger but still issued the earplugs for hearing protection? There is nothing to suggest that the military had any knowledge of the defect.

3M's preemption arguments failed. Judge Rodgers ruled that 3M "government contractor defense" that protects some defendants from liability when building products to the government's specifications do not apply in this case. 3M cannot even make this argument to the jury, the court ruled, because no reasonable jury could conclude that the military made Aearo/3M do anything. Judge Rodgers ruled that the defendants "may not argue that the government dictated, directed, approved, or otherwise exercised discretion concerning military specifications for any aspect of the design of the CAEv2, or the content of instructions or warnings."

Getting a 3M Earplug Lawyer to Fight for You

If you used 3M's Combat Arms Earplugs in the military and have a severe hearing impairment, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injury. Our 3M earplug lawsuit attorneys get calls and online inquiries about this litigation every single day. Because of the statute of limitations, you must reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible. This is not a deadline you can miss.

Contact us and we can investigate your case and tell you whether or not 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. There is no risk or cost.

We are contingency fee lawyers. Our attorneys only get a fee if you get compensation. If you need representation, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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★★★★★
They quite literally worked as hard as if not harder than the doctors to save our lives. Terry Waldron
★★★★★
Ron helped me find a clear path that ended with my foot healing and a settlement that was much more than I hope for. Aaron Johnson
★★★★★
Hopefully I won't need it again but if I do, I have definitely found my lawyer for life and I would definitely recommend this office to anyone! Bridget Stevens
★★★★★
The last case I referred to them settled for $1.2 million. John Selinger
★★★★★
I am so grateful that I was lucky to pick Miller & Zois. Maggie Lauer
★★★★★
The entire team from the intake Samantha to the lawyer himself (Ron Miller) has been really approachable. Suzette Allen
★★★★★
The case settled and I got a lot more money than I expected. Ron even fought to reduce how much I owed in medical bills so I could get an even larger settlement. Nchedo Idahosa