3M Earplug Lawsuit Verdict Update: Army Veteran Awarded $2.2 Million in 15th Federal Bellwether Jury Trial

Plaintiffs have now won nine out of 15 bellwether trials held so far, and there are about 290,000 other 3M earplug lawsuits awaiting their day in court.

As a steady stream of 3M earplug lawsuits continue to go before juries in the federal court system, a U.S. Army veteran was awarded $2.2 million in damages late Friday, in the 15th bellwether trial held to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout nearly 290,000 other claims.

3M Company has lost nine of the early bellwether trials held so far, with juries awarding combined verdicts of more than $200 million when finding in favor of plaintiffs, which sends an alarming signal about the extent of liability the company faces and the among it may need to pay in 3M earplug settlements if it intends to resolve the litigation.

Each of the claims raise similar questions of fact and law, indicating that 3M Combat Arms earplugs that were standard military issue equipment from 2003 to 2015 were defective, leaving veterans with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus following service.

To help manage the massive litigation, cases brought throughout the federal court system have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, where a series of early “bellwether” trials have been held over the past year. However, 3M has only been able to successfully defend the safety of their product in six of the 15 trials to be held so far.

The latest trial concluded late last week, involving claims brought U.S. Army veteran Jonathon Vaughn, who was awarded $2.2 million in damages. However, since the case originated in Colorado, 3M indicates it plans to appeal and believes the verdict will be reduced to about $700,000.

This loss comes only a few weeks after 3M secured a defense verdict in a case brought on behalf of Denis Kelley, who suffered hearing damage after using the earplugs on tours of service in Iraq and Kuwait. However, other plaintiffs’ verdicts have included $50 million awarded to Luke Volsmeyer, $8 million awarded to Steven Wilkerson, $22.5 million awarded to Theodore Finley, $13 million to Guillermo Camarillorazo, $8.2 million to Brandon Adkins, $1.7 million awarded to Lloyd Baker and combined verdicts of $7.1 million returned in a trial involving three military veteran whose claims went before the same jury.

Since 3M continues to maintain that it intends to defend claims at trial, and no progress has been made toward settling remaining lawsuits, Judge Rodgers has ordered that pretrial preparations begin for 1,500 cases, as part of three new “waves” of claims that may later be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.

With only about 2,000 civil jury trials typically held nationwide each year throughout the federal court system, it is likely that Courts will start combining large numbers of plaintiffs for consolidated trials to avoid taking decades to resolve the 3M litigation.

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