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More than five dozen different product liability lawyers will make presentations today and tomorrow to the U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal 3M Combat Arms earplug lawsuits, as appointments are sought for various leadership roles in the litigation established for cases brought by military veterans left with hearing loss or tinnitus due to the defective earplugs.
There are currently more than 635 product liability lawsuits filed against 3M Company and it’s Aearo Technologies subsidiary, each presenting claims for damages linked to Combat Arms earplugs, which were standard issue by the military between 2003 and 2015. However, as military earplug lawyers continue to review and file complaints in the coming weeks and months, it is ultimately expected that tens of thousands of cases will be brought by individuals nationwide.
Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were reversible earplugs designed to serve as traditional earplugs when inserted one way, but the manufacturer indicated that they provided filtered noise reduction when reversed, blocking loud battlefield noises, while allowing the wearer to hear spoken commands.
Each of the complaints present similar allegations, indicating the earplugs were too short to properly fit the ear canal. As a result, veterans claim they were left without adequate ear protection during service.
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in a growing number of claims brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
In a pretrial order issued in April 2019, Judge Rodgers invited Combat Arms earplug lawyers to apply for various leadership positions, including lead counsel, liaison counsel, membership on an executive committee, a steering committee, and a number of subcommittees. These attorneys will conduct discovery, argue motions before the court and take other actions that benefit all plaintiffs in the litigation.
At least 64 attorneys have been scheduled to make presentations during hearings held today and tomorrow, according to a schedule (PDF) issued late last week, largely in alphabetical order based on the attorney’s last name.
“Each attorney’s presentation should be no longer than five to ten minutes,” according to a pretrial order (PDF) issued earlier this month. “The Court appreciates brevity and the Panel is already familiar with the application materials. Attorneys should consider addressing how they propose to allocate responsibilities and collaborate with other members of the leadership team, encourage meaningful participation by non-leadership counsel, and/or use their unique and specialized skills and experience to fairly, effectively, and efficiently represent the interests of all plaintiffs in this litigation.”
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, these attorneys will conduct general discovery that involves issues applicable to all claims. However, each veteran will still maintain their own attorney to represent their specific interests and establish that their hearing loss was caused by the 3M earplugs.