Dozens of 3M Earplug Lawsuits Will “Soon” Be Remanded to U.S. District Courts Nationwide for Trial
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all 3M earplug lawsuits indicates that she anticipates remands will begin “soon” in the MDL, and has identified a group of 31 cases that will be the first transferred to federal courts nationwide for individual trial dates.
More than 230,000 U.S. veterans are currently pursuing lawsuits against 3M Company and its Aearo Technologies subsidiary, each raising similar allegations that they were left with permanent hearing damage after receiving Combat Arms Earplug during military service, which were standard issue before all deployments between 2003 and 2015.
Plaintiffs allege that 3M sold the earplugs to the U.S. government, knowing they contained a design defect that left service members without adequate ear protectors during combat and training exercises. As a result, veterans seek financial compensation and settlements for hearing loss and tinnitus they have experienced since their military service.
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Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, all claims brought throughout the federal court system have been centralized for the past three and a half years before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.
Although juries have returned millions in damage awards during a series of early bellwether trials held in the MDL, 3M earplug settlement negotiations have failed to reach any offer that veterans would accept as fair compensation to resolve large numbers of claims, and the size of the litigation has continued to increase as veterans continue to present claims.
3M Earplug Lawsuit Remand Expected to Begin Soon
Over the past year, 3M has attempted to delay the litigation through a controversial bankruptcy filing in the earplug litigation, attempting to place it’s Aearo Technologies subsidiary into bankruptcy, even though the multi-billion dollar parent company is well funded, and directly profited fro the sale of the earplugs for years.
The bankruptcy plan has been rebuffed by the court, which has determined that the lawsuit can move forward against 3M Company while it is determined whether Aearo Technologies faces any real financial distress. However, Judge Rodgers has granted a temporary stay on the litigation while 3M appeals the decision and some of the rulings in early bellwether cases.
In a notice (PDF) issued on May 30, 2023, Judge Rodgers indicates that a group of five cases will be returned to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida as soon as the current stay is lifted. However, another 26 files have been identified, which will shortly thereafter be transferred to at least 17 different federal district courts.
“Remands are anticipated to begin soon in the MDL,” Judge Rodgers wrote in the notice. “Towards that end, the parties are advised that the 31 cases identified on Exhibit A will comprise the first pool of Wave 1 cases to be remanded to transferor courts. Rulings on [challenges to the admissibility of expert witness testimony] and dispositive motions in those cases have been prioritized and are ongoing. The Middle District of Florida cases will be remanded together immediately after the current stay is lifted. The remaining cases will be remanded thereafter, although not necessarily in the chronological order listed on Exhibit A.”
June 2023 Settlement Update on 3M Earplug Lawsuits
While awaiting the outcome of certain appeals, 3M earplug settlement talks are ongoing in the MDL. Last week, Judge Rodgers required the 3M CEO Mike Roman attend an earplug settlement mediation, indicating that the negotiations had reached a “critical juncture” and it was necessary for the top executive to be present during negotiations, so that he can properly inform his Board of Directors about any potential global resolution.
The scheduling of additional 3M earplug trials in U.S. District Courts nationwide will further increase pressure on the manufacturer to establish a settlement framework or plan to address the massive liability it may face from individual juries.
Prior estimates had suggested the company would need to pay more than ten billion to settle the earplug lawsuits during early mediations. However, if the Aearo bankruptcy is dismissed and the company loses issues on appeal, the 3M earplug settlement protections are likely to increase dramatically.
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