The Combat Arms earplugs were manufactured and sold by 3M to all four branches of the U.S. military. The 3Ms dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs may have caused hundreds of thousands of our soldiers to suffer hearing damage and tinnitus.
3M Lawsuit Latest Updates
[October 11, 2021 Update: Earlier this month, Army veteran Brandon Adkins was awarded $8.2 million today in another incredible win for veterans in the 3M earplug lawsuit. The 35-year old army veteran's lawsuit alleges he suffered hearing loss and bilateral tinnitus from 3M's defective earplugs.
The important thing to understand is that Mr. Adkins was on 3M's list of lawsuits it submitted to the judge that it wanted to try because it believed the facts were favorable to the defendant. So the surefire winner for 3M ends with a $8.2 million verdict. This is a big deal.
The next trial will be in October. The MDL Judge has now scheduled six additional test trials for November through February 2022. The aggressive schedule in this second wave of bellwether will likely continue to put settlement pressure on 3M.
Two separate cases are scheduled for simultaneous trials on November 1, followed by a third trial on November 30. December will see three more separate trials and then three more earplug lawsuits will be consolidated for a single trial in February.
With over 250,000 earplug cases still pending, this puts incredible pressure on 3M and their lawyers to negotiate a global settlement.. The upcoming gauntlet of six trials in two months may accelerate the pace of this settlement. If the plaintiffs win Blum - next week on October 18th - 3M may seek to postpone any further trials and focus on settlement negotiation. (We dig deeper into the latest 3M update on the Atkins trial in this September 30, 2021 blog post.]
[September 1, 2021 Update: The 3M earplug MDL class action judge is putting real pressure on both parties to reach a settlement. Last week, Judge Rodgers issued a case management order aimed at rapidly accelerating the pace of the 3M lawsuits to address the “unprecedented backlog” of over 250,000 claims. The order instructs the parties to work up massive “waves” of pending lawsuits from the administrative docket to the active docket. The first wave will include about 1,500 cases, but subsequent waves will have as many as 20,000 cases.
This is an impossible schedule for both sides. But the judge is messaging that if the parties cannot find an agreeable settlement amount, she will start rapid-fire trying these earplug lawsuits.]
[August 15, 2021 Update: These four verdicts have not advanced 3M earplug lawsuit settlement talks like our lawyers expected. This is disappointing. Our attorneys know the injured soldiers we help want to get their settlement money. But if you had told our 3M earplug lawyers at the beginning of the year that soldiers would be 4-1 and the average verdict would be over $2 million, we would be very happy. This litigation is progressing better than plaintiffs' lawyers expected. Still, we may need more trials to get 3M and their shareholders to take an honest look at what reasonable settlement amounts are in these 3M lawsuits. The 3M trials resumed on September 20th and they could be the trigger for a final settlement.]
[June 28, 2021 Update: Verdict #3: Another win for in the 3M earplug lawsuits. A Florida jury awarded $1.7 but found Lloyd Baker 38 percent at fault. So the real award for this soldier is $1.1 million. This is a huge win for victims looking for a just settlement compensation payout in the 3M earplug lawsuits. Victims are now 4-1 in 3M hearing damage litigation. This sends a message to 3M that these hearing injuries have real value and an average settlement of $10,000 will not get these cases settled.]
[June 7, 2021 Update: Verdict #2 - The second 3M trial ended last week with a win for the 3M, unfortunately. This was a tinnitus case. The plaintiff, an addiction counselor in Ohio, claimed his earplugs failed him while serving in the Army in Afghanistan where he was exposed to machine guns fire.]
[April 30, 2021 Update: Verdict #1 - We have a verdict! Three earplug plaintiffs were awarded $7.1 million by a federal jury in Florida. The jury awarded $2.1 million in punitive damages per victim. The verdict shows the jury was angry at 3M's conduct. This will impact the settlement amounts in the 3M earplug lawsuit. Our lawyers hope this stunning verdict after a five-week trial will have a game-changing effect on the individual settlement compensation payouts in these hearing loss claims. Below we talk about the potential settlement compensation payouts in these cases.]
So, let's summarize the current status of the 3M earplug lawsuits. As of October 1, 2021, the first three bellwether test trials in the 3M earplugs MDL have been completed.
Round 1 resulted in an emphatic victory for the plaintiffs. But 3M bounced back with a victory against a single plaintiff in Round 2.
The trial in Round 3 was, as we discussed above, a $1.7 million verdict for the plaintiff. After a summer break, a new 3M trial is underway and the next trial is set for October.
|Bellwether #||Plaintiff(s)||Trial Date||Result|
|1st||Estes, Luke (7:20cv098)|
Hacker, Stephen (7:20cv072)
Keefer, Lewis (7:20cv104)
|5-9-21||$7.1 million verdict|
|2nd||McCombs, Dustin (7:20cv094)||5-28-21||Defense verdict|
|3rd||Baker, Llyod Eugene||6-7-21||$1.7 million verdict|
|4th||Adkins, Brandon (7:20cv0012)||9-20-21||$8.2 million verdict|
|5th||Blum, Michelle Marie||10-18-21|
These first bellwether 3M earplug verdicts are a big deal. It takes great effort to get to trial in an MDL class action. If the plaintiffs continue winning these hearing damage cases, as our lawyers expect, you could see a 3M global class action settlement faster than you think. Our lawyers provide more 3M earplug trial updates below.]
The stakes are high. The MDL judge reported a mind-blowing 259,130 claimants registered in federal court in the MDL on August 13, 2021. There are also approximately 1,000 3M earplug lawsuits pending in state court in Minnesota.
This is the biggest MDL class action in American history. This litigation might lead to one of the largest settlements ever. These cases were moving quickly. Plaintiffs' lawyers are excited about how they are developing and the trial now underway.
Typical victims in these cases are veterans between the ages of 30 and 49 who served in the Army and allege a combination of tinnitus and hearing loss.
Our law firm is getting calls, web inquires, and emails from veterans and active duty military personnel with hearing issues seven days a week In the 3M CAEv2 earplug lawsuits, it's our turn as lawyers to fight for the same brave men and women that have fought to protect us all.
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 actually 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.
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 who 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. Do your Apple AirPods ever fall out when you run? This was 1000 times worse.
So the design flaw was that the stem of the earplug was too short for soldiers with large, or even normal, ear canals. These soldiers could not insert the device deeply enough to get the airtight seal required for hearing protection. The result was earplugs that did not fully block the sound... or they fell out completely.
3M Knew the Earplugs Were Defective
3M was apparently 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. That is a stunning profit and it explains a lot.
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
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.
Our law firm is reviewing claims that meet the following criteria:
- You served in the military between 2003 to 2015
- You wore military issued earplugs during service
- You were exposed to loud sounds during military service
- 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.
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.
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.
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 August 2021, none of these claims have been settled. We do have now, of course, the $7.1 million jury verdict and the $1.7 million verdict in Baker. So victims at 4-1 in the cases that have gone to trial.
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.)
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.
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 offer to veterans to settle these cases fairly. This means more trial. The fourth hearing protection lawsuit begin on September 20, 2021.
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. 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.
How do the three 3M hearing loss verdicts impact our lawyers' projected individual settlement amounts? Our law firm has been bullish from the beginning. This is what our attorneys expected. We will win some and lose some. But plaintiffs should win more than we lose. So our projected settlement compensation payouts are higher because of the large punitive damage award in the first trial but our projections have not changed all that much.
- How the 3M earplug verdict impacts your case
- Video on how this verdict impacts earplug settlement compensation
Lawsuits against 3M are still being filed
Our lawyers believe that the average value of hearing loss claims in the Combat Arms earplug cases may be notably higher than this which could lead to larger individual payouts if these cases go to trial. The pain and suffering damages with these sympathetic plaintiffs could be very high.
Most of the sample cases below involve car accidents where settlement values are typically lower because of max limits on the applicable insurance policies. 3M is one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, so there won't be any insurance limits. Moreover, the prospective victims in these cases have earned great respect from all of us. Military veterans are highly sympathetic victims and they should be.
Of course, at this point, we are all guessing about the potential settlement value of these claims. But we are bullish on them because the liability case - the ability to blame the defendant for the harm - looks to be very strong.Little More 3M Litigation History to June 2021
Two 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.
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 their 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.
There was another big development in the MDL was Judge Rogers's appointment of U.S. District Court Judge David Herndon as a special master in the case. Judge Herndon is an extremely experienced MDL judge who presided over Pradaxa and Yaz MDL class actions. Both ended in reasonable global settlements. This is a good development for everyone. Because it may help get these cases ripe for settlement more quickly.
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.
Obviously, 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 that, "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.
November 2020 Update #2: 3M is trying to pierce the attorney-client privilege by getting information from Top Class Actions, a company that develops leads for cases for some personal injury lawyers. 3M lawyers have asked a federal judge to force the company to provide information because Top Class Actions is not a law firm. This does expose the underbelly of how some earplug attorneys are getting so many cases. 3M's position on this is technically correct. There is no attorney-client relationship if you are not speaking with an attorney or their agent. (This is why veterans are better-served to call a law firm than calling a company seeking cases for lawyers.) But, ultimately, it is a tempest in a teapot. These former soldiers are just reporting the truth. They used these defective earplugs and now they have hearing problems or tinnitus.
January 2021 Update #3: Below we flush out what we anticipated was 3M's begin legal defense in the case. Judge Rodgers denied 3M's motion for summary judgment that would have effectively ended the litigation. Instead, she ruled that 3M "government contractor defense" that protects some defendants from liability when building products to the government's specifications does 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. On March 24, 2021, on the eve of the first jury trial, Judge Rodgers underscored this point by granting, in part, plaintiffs' motion in limine, ruling that the defendants "may not argue that the government dictated, directed, approved, or otherwise exercised discretion with respect to military specifications for any aspect of the design of the CAEv2, or for the content of instructions or warnings."
January 2021 Update #4: As discovery heats up in anticipation of trial in April 2021, the defense lawyers filed late expert reports with new theories defending the design of the earplugs. Why were the reports late? Big shocker: 3M blamed the government's delayed responses to discovery. But on January 15, 2021, the court denied defense lawyers the opportunity to use an important section of the defense expert's report, at least for this first trial group, because they could not show their "belated disclosure of this section [was] substantially justified or harmless."
March 2021 Update #5: Judge Rodgers ruled that the defendants cannot seek expert opinions from one of the plaintiff's treating doctors with respect to noise exposures and use of hearing protection devices because the defendants did not designate the doctor as an expert in their Rule 26 disclosures. This is a big deal. The treating doctor always has extra credibility with the jury. This doctor would testify that Dr. one of the plaintiff's hearing loss is due to either otosclerosis or the facial nerve abnormality. Barring that testimony, even for the one plaintiff, might help increase the combined bellwether verdict if the plaintiffs win the trial.
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 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. 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:
- The claim is uniquely of federal interest; and
- There is 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:
- The U.S. approved reasonably precise specifications;
- The equipment conformed to those precise specifications; and
- 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.
When 3M's preemption arguments failed, the defense evolved to blaming the military. Our lawyers knew this defense was doomed to fail and it flopped spectacularly with the MDL judge, who limited many of the arguments, and the jury in the first trial.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.
- Who is eligible for compensation in Combat Arms earplug litigation?