For over a decade, multinational conglomerate 3M supplied Combat Arms earplugs to the entire U.S. military—earplugs that thousands of troops claim were defective, and have caused hearing loss and tinnitus.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on MDL Litigation reports 203,722 claimants against 3M for knowingly distributing faulty “CAEv2” earplugs, which 3M touted would protect wearers from damaging concussive impulses.
In early December, five of these claimants urged the court to combine their cases into one trial on the basis that each case involves the same underlying facts, and that 3M would be calling the same 12 witnesses in all five cases. Despite the five cases spanning four separate states, and therefore four separate sets of law, the claimants argued that the legal differences between the states are not great enough to warrant independent trials.
In a December 30 order, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers chose to consolidate three of these cases—those of Luke and Jennifer Estes, Lewis Keefer, and Stephen Hacker—into a bellwether trial set for April 5, 2021. This decision runs counter to 3M’s assertion that a bellwether trial could create confusion among jurors.
A trial date of May 17 and June 7 have been set for the independent cases of Dustin McCombs and Lloyd Baker, respectively.
Plaintiffs lawyers say that the number of veterans suffering from hearing loss due to these earplugs could be as high as 800,000. In a joint statement to Law360, they expressed satisfaction with the judge’s decision, stating that they “look forward to trial so that service members can hold 3M accountable for the permanent, life-altering hearing damage caused by these defective earplugs.”
The five veterans with upcoming trial dates back their claims of hearing damage during their military service, in part, by pointing to measurements made via military-issued audiograms.
The 3M earplugs lawsuit was initiated in 2016 by plaintiffs Moldex-Metric Inc. and the United States. The claim was that Aearo Technologies (a company that was acquired by 3M in 2007) distributed faulty earplugs to all four branches of the U.S. military after falsely stating that the earplugs met specific medical standards. 3M settled with the government for $9.1 million, but maintained that they were not at fault.
3M holds firm in their refusal to admit liability, telling Law360, “We look forward to proving our case at trial. We deny the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 product was defectively designed and caused injuries… The company worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the product, and its design reflected the direction and feedback of individuals acting on the military’s behalf. The CAEv2 product is effective and safe to use, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against plaintiffs’ claims.”
If you need legal representation for your 3M Earplug case, call your 3M legal team at Fenstersheib Law Group. You can call us 1-800-TellRobert 24/7 to speak with our attorneys to see how we can help.
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