What are the 3M Earplug Lawsuits?
The Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were designed for military use and used extensively by millions of servicemen and servicewomen. Unfortunately, many who were serving in the U.S. and abroad may have encountered damaging sound levels after receiving defective and dangerous earplugs. The catastrophe has caused hearing damage and tinnitus for more than 250,000 veterans who served from 2003 to 2015.
As a result, many now await the latest 3M earplug lawsuit updates. The bellwether trials represent a test round of litigation where preliminary cases were made against 3M. The verdicts of the trials will set the tone for the remaining hundreds of thousands of cases pending trial.
Mostyn Law is at the forefront of the 3M earplug lawsuit, with boots on the ground in front of the multidistrict litigation court in Pensacola and a dedicated team of Houston lawyers and paralegals working diligently on your 3M cases. We are active on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, and Attorney Mike Burns was hand-picked by the Court to act as the Plaintiffs’ Co-Liaison Council.
Check out what’s happening in these cases below. For more frequent 3M earplug lawsuit updates, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media @MostynLaw.
The harmful effects of defective earplugs
3M’s defective earplugs failed at protecting soldiers from the most damaging sounds of military combat, including gunfire, machinery, and aircraft. Due to the design flaw, thousands of veterans have suffered during training and combat. For many, it impedes their ability to work and live a healthy life, and while some receive treatment, many suffer in silence. Dangerous sound levels can have permanent effects, including the following ailments.
Hearing damage (partial or total loss)
Have you noticed the signs of hearing loss? You could be experiencing difficulty understanding when people talk, hear muffled sounds, withdraw from the conversation, or ask people to speak up.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Tinnitus is also known as a ringing in the ears, and it can grow louder with time. To cope, many people listen to white noise when sleeping, and some even listen to it constantly.
Hearing loss can lead to sleep deprivation and vice versa. When you lose sleep, your brain works harder to process sound, and hearing loss can directly cause the inability to get restful sleep.
With several types of hearing damage comes mental and emotional duress that can impede your daily life. You may notice that you become slightly more irritable and struggle to stay focused on tasks.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Hearing damage is linked to worsening PTSD, a condition that veterans all too often face. Tinnitus or deafness can make it even more difficult to manage the condition, and the symptoms may trigger traumatic experiences.
3M Earplug Lawsuit Update FAQs
3M Earplug Lawsuit Updates
3M has spent $4.7 million per week in 3M earplug lawsuit
Bloomberg reports that 3M has spent “more than $450 million in legal costs,” or $4.7 million weekly. However, Bloomberg’s analysis does not include $366 million in unpaid damages that courts have already ordered 3M to pay, including damages still outstanding and those that are still pending appeal.
Judge holds 3M liable for faulty earplug
An MDL judge blocked 3M from shifting liability to the company it acquired, Aearo, which was now bankrupt. Reuters reported that multidistrict litigation (MDL) Judge Rodgers saw 3M’s move as an attempt to “rewrite the history of the CAEv2” earplugs and said the company deserves the “harshest penalty.”
As a result, 3M remains liable for knowingly providing defective earplugs to military personnel, a decision that the company has now appealed. The court has expedited that appeal, and all lawsuits are temporarily halted until the court resolves 3M's request for review in the coming months.
3M stock fell 54% since 2018
MarketWatch reports that 3M stock fell to its lowest point since 2018 and was “trading roughly 33% lower” than one year before. However, Bloomberg reports that 3M gained permission from the Eleventh Circuit Court to “resume arguing certain combat earplug issues,” including mentioning their subsidiary’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, without the judge holding them in contempt.
3M forced into a settlement mediation
Bloomberg reports that 3M was forced into settlement mediation by Judge Rodgers after he rejected the company's bankruptcy litigation strategy, which he said was an attempt to “undermine the biggest multidistrict litigation (MDL) in US history.” 3M reached no global settlement in the mediations that would proceed, and the settlement talks continued in the months ahead.
Judge denies 3M from obtaining bankruptcy protection
Wall Street Journal reports that Judge Graham denied “3M’s bankruptcy shield,” meaning that the company could not forgo settlements through automatic bankruptcy as its subsidiary company Aearo had done. Aearo continued its bankruptcy restructuring process and 3M’s defective earplug lawsuit trials commenced.
3M argues its bankruptcy strategy in court
ALM reports that Judge Rodgers told 3M “to pay all the expenses” in response to the company’s bankruptcy strategy. 3M claimed that the court was not vetting the cases of plaintiffs, which was easily disproved by the 80,000 cases that had already been dismissed.
In the wake of the first mediation round, lawyers of the plaintiffs in the 3M earplug lawsuit pushed forward several cases for trial during 2023. Attorneys also filed an 84-page motion to limit 3M’s expert witness testimony and to preserve prior Daubert rulings by Judge Rodgers.
3M stands to owe billions over defective earplugs
Wall Street Journal reported that 3M stood to owe “billions in liabilities over $7.63 earplugs.” The looming mediation gave massive visibility to an otherwise ignored litigation struggle, which also happens to be the most significant consolidated mass tort ever.
Judge Rodgers ordered the settlement mediation conference, with Randi Ellis, a federally and state-appointed mediator overseeing the three-day negotiations. Ideally, the mediation would have saved the federal courts exponentially in costs, pushing the remaining 233,000 cases in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) back to their respective home districts in chunks of 500 lawsuits at once.
Final bellwether verdict is reached
Overseen by Judge Robin Rosenberg, the army veteran James Beal was the last bellwether plaintiff to come out on top after two weeks of litigation, winning $77.5 million against 3M. Reuters reports that, after hearing the 16th and final bellwether verdict, 3M expressed that they were “disappointed.” Out of 16 bellwether verdicts, the company lost ten and won six. The average payout for the bellwether winners was $30 million.
3M loses a $2.2 million verdict
Bloomberg Law reports that army veteran Jonathan Vaughn won $2.2 million in Florida after 3M’s legal defense proved “unconvincing and without merit.” But while Vaughn overcame in the courts, Reuters reports that 3M won its defense verdict against Denise Kelley, making one of six wins against the plaintiffs in a “massive multidistrict litigation.”
3M loses $58 million in one weekend
3M lost two more bellwether verdicts, this time against winning plaintiffs Steve Wilkerson and Luke Vilsmeyer. Reuters reports that the verdict “was the second largest in the litigation” and “made up entirely of compensatory damages.” Wilkerson was awarded $8 million, while Vilsmeyer received $50 million, making for a combined $58 million over a single weekend.
3M loses $110 million verdict
Bloomberg Law reports that 3M “plans to appeal” the $110 million Ronald Sloan/Williams Wayman verdict, the last case in the bellwether’s C group and the first bellwether trial of 2022. The final bellwether cases between 3M and a handful of plaintiffs are scheduled for the coming months.
3M scores mixed verdicts in trials six through nine
Bloomberg Law reports that bellwether trials six and seven took place with “trials split on liability.” For the 6th bellwether case, Joseph Palanki lost to 3M, making it the second victory for the earplug manufacturer. The following bellwether trial awarded plaintiff Guillermo Camarillorazo with $13.1 million in damages.
Reuters reports that 3M lost “the biggest verdict yet” in the eighth bellwether trial, where Joseph Finley received a $22.5 settlement in a victory against 3M. However, a week later, in the ninth bellwether case, The Star Tribune reports that 3M won against Carlos Montero “days after” the company took a “big loss.”
Fourth and fifth bellwether trials ended with mixed results
The company lost an $8.2 million verdict in the fourth bellwether trial, Reuters reports, after litigation that primarily focused on the plaintiff’s tinnitus. Reuters also reports that 3M was “cleared of fault” after a victory against the plaintiff in the following fifth bellwether trial.
3M loses third bellwether trial
Reuters reports that 3M lost the third bellwether trial in a “huge mass tort” against the company. The verdict called for a $1.7 million settlement awarded to the plaintiff, with the judge ruling that 3M failed to issue “adequate safety warnings” with the faulty earplugs.
3M wins second bellwether trial
ALM reports that a $7.1 million verdict was reached for three plaintiffs in the first bellwether trial, with 3M held “100% at fault.” The settlement includes $2.1 million in punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs’ cases.
Full 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update Timeline
2000: Aearo started manufacturing defective earplugs
Aearo Technologies, Inc was likely aware of the earplug defects as early as 2000, many years before 3M became the exclusive provider of selective attenuation earplugs to the military. The United States alleged that 3M and Aearo knew the Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 model was too short for proper insertion into soldiers’ ears and could loosen imperceptibly, potentially resulting in permanent hearing damage for the user.
2008: 3M acquires Aearo Technologies
The earplug design defect, which prevented the earplug from staying put inside the ears of soldiers, was known to 3M, but the company did not disclose it to the Department of Defense. 3M may have manipulated test results to make it appear that the earplugs met government standards.
2018: The US holds 3M liable for selling defective earplugs
In July 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that they knowingly sold the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs, Version 2 to the U.S. military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.
2021: 3M bellwether trials start
On May 21, the first bellwether trial kicked off, and the courts began to hear arguments from both plaintiffs and the 3M company. The term “bellwether” describes a beginning phase in which the multidistrict litigation court tries a select handful of cases. After determining the bellwether cases, the court will decide how to address the 100,000 remaining 3M verdicts.
Mostyn Law is Leading the Way
Our firm sets itself apart from other law firms and hundreds of attorneys participating or seeking to participate in the 3M lawsuits because we have exclusive access to the trials. As one of the only firms chosen for the Liaison Council, Mostyn is paving the way for 3M plaintiffs to achieve a just outcome.
Did you serve in the military between 2003-2015? If you have hearing loss, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.