Nearly 1,000 Lawsuits Over 3M Ear Plug Hearing Loss, Tinnitus Problems Already Filed in MDL

  • Written by: Austin Kirk
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Only a few months after the first cases were filed, nearly 1,000 military veterans have already filed a product liability lawsuit over hearing loss from 3M ear plugs, and this is expected to be just the tip of the iceberg, with tens of thousands of additional claims being investigated by lawyers.

Each of the complaints raise similar allegations, indicating that 3M Company knowingly sold the U.S. military dual-ended ear plugs that were defective and failed to provide adequate hearing protection. The 3M ear plugs were standard military issue to all service members between about 2003 and 2015, and have been blamed for increasing reports of hearing loss, tinnitus and other hearing damage following military service.

In April 2019, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to centralized and consolidate cases filed in various different federal courts before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, for coordinated discover and pretrial proceedings.

According to the latest docket report (PDF) updated June 19, there are already at least 960 3M ear plug lawsuits pending before Judge Rodgers, and the rate of new case filings is expected to increase dramatically in the coming months as discovery gets underway and direct filing of claims in the MDL is allowed.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Rodgers has scheduled a “Science Day” for late August, at which time the parties will make non-adversarial presentations designed to educate the court about the link between 3M ear plugs and hearing loss.

Each of the complaints involve allegations that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, version 2 (CAEv2) were defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous. The ear plugs featured a dual-ended, or reversible, design that was intended to completely block all sounds when inserted one way, but provide filtered noise reduction when reversed, blocking loud battlefield noises, while allowing the wearer to hear spoken commands.

Plaintiffs indicate that 3M Company has known for years that the ear plugs were too small to properly seal the ear canal. Rather than recalling the earplugs or providing updated warnings and instructions, the manufacturer continued to sell the defective earplugs to the U.S. military for years, who issued the product to nearly every service member.

In July 2018, 3M reached a $9.1 million settlement over the Combat Arms earplug problems with the Department of Justice, resolving claims that it defrauded the government by knowingly selling the defective earplugs.

As part of the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings in the MDL, Judge Rodgers is expected to rule on motions that impact all claims, and schedule a series of early trial dates involving representative claims, which will present facts similar to those contained in many other claims. However, if 3M earplug settlements are not reached following the MDL proceedings, each individual claim would eventually be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials in the future.

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1 comment

  1. Mukiza Reply

    To me, 3M accepting to compensate the United States Government
    a $9.1 million settlement over the Combat Arms earplug problems with the Department of Justice, resolving claims that it defrauded the government by knowingly selling the defective earplugs is enough to make it even compensate all the affected parties. We are facing sincerely going through a lot of challenges with what their earplugs caused to us. Let Justice prevail.

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