3M Earplug Settlement Partially Funded With First $250M To Cover Initial Expedited Payment Claims

This is the first of a series of 3M earplug settlement payments expected to take place between now and 2029, which will resolve more than 200,000 hearing loss and tinnitus claims brought by former military servicemembers.

3M Company has made the first payment to partially fund a $6 billion earplug settlement agreement, which seeks to resolve all lawsuits brought by veterans who say using the company’s Combat Arms earplugs resulted in in hearing loss and tinnitus.

The settlement was announced in August 2023, after the manufacturer spent years fighting more than 300,000 3M earplug lawsuits brought over permanent hearing damage caused design defects with its Combat Arms earplugs, which were standard military issue for all service members between 2003 and 2015.

The veterans claim 3M Company, and it’s Aero Technologies subsidiary, knew the earplugs failed to properly seal the ear canal, yet continued to sell their product to the U.S. government, causing service members to be left without adequate ear protection during combat and training exercises.

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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. However, there are also a number of cases pending in state courts of Minnesota, where 3M’s headquarters are located.

Following a series of massive damage awards returned by juries in early cases that went to trial in the MDL, the manufacturer ultimately agreed to pay $6 billion to resolve the settlement, which will be funded over a five year period.

First 3M Earplug Settlement Payment

In a press release issued on December 27, 3M Company announced that it has made a payment of $250 million to the Qualified Settlement Fund, which will be used compensate between 25,000 and 30,000 veterans who elected to receive smaller “expedited” payments.

Terms of the agreement allow the company to fund the 3M earplug settlement in several waves between now and 2029, with claimants overall receiving an average of about $24,000. However, with some damage awards expected to be substantially higher, most veterans may only see about half of that amount to resolve their claims.

While the parties move forward with the settlement funding process, there have been questions over whether enough veterans will approve of the deal to sign on. Plaintiffs were given six months from August 29 to accept or opt-out of the agreement, but the settlement amount has been criticized by some as insufficient compensation for permanent hearing loss and tinnitus injuries. If less than 98% of plaintiffs agree to the settlement, the deal may fall apart.

In its press release, 3M sought to quell such concerns.

“Since the Combat Arms Earplug settlement agreement was announced in August 2023, it has received strong and widespread support from claimants and the broader military community,” company officials claim. “This support has helped the parties and the courts reach the next milestone set forth in the agreement toward full implementation of the settlement.”

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