3M Earplug Settlement Participation Rate Exceeds 99%, Bringing Final Resolution To Litigation

More than 249,000 claimants have accepted 3M earplug settlements, and another 41,000 lawsuits have been dismissed by the judge presiding over the litigation, bringing an end to the massive litigation over hearing loss and tinnitus

3M Company indicates that more than 99% of eligible veterans have agreed to participate in a 3M Combat Arms earplug settlement agreement, which will likely bring an end to the litigation.

At one time, 3M Company faced nearly 300,000 product liability lawsuits brought by U.S. military veterans, each involving similar allegations that they suffered permanent hearing damage due to alleged design defects with the company’s Combat Arms earplugs, which were standard military issue for all service members between 2003 and 2015.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, all claims brought throughout the federal court system were centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida nearly four years ago, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

Following a series of early bellwether trials that resulted in massive damage awards, Judge Rodgers established a “wave” process where several groups including hundreds of claims were selected for additional discovery in preparation for remand back to different U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials. However, as the court was preparing to start scheduling trials in at least 17 different federal courts, the manufacturer ultimately reached an agreement to pay nearly $6 billion to resolve the litigation, which will be funded over a five year period.

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3M Earplug Settlement Agreement Participation

Over the past few months, claimants have been deciding whether to participate in the 3M earplug settlement, which requires at least 98% of eligible plaintiffs to agree to the deal, or 3M had the option to cancel the agreement.

On March 26, 3M Company issued a press release confirming that the earplug settlement participation rate is now over 99% of eligible claimants, as of the deadline for veterans to register for the deal.

“Out of a total of more than 293,000 claims, more than 249,000 claimants have registered to participate in the settlement. In addition, more than 41,000 claims have been dismissed by the courts administering the agreements,” the press release states. “Once all the settlement registrations that have been submitted by claimants have been processed and validated, 3M anticipates that the settlement will have achieved a more than 99.9% participation level.”

The company indicates it will pay up to $6 billion to the participants from 2023 to 2029, with some of the funds coming in the form of common stock. 3M notes that it and its subsidiary, Aearo, are engaged in efforts to have insurance offset a portion of the settlement payments.

In prior court orders, Judge Rodgers has indicated that plaintiffs who do not elect to participate in the settlement agreement must transition their cases from the administrative docket to the active docket, and would face strict deadlines in the further litigation of their claim, which has resulted in the rapid dismissal of a large number of lawsuits with prejudice, barring those plaintiffs from obtaining any financial compensation for injuries caused by the earplugs.

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