State Court Lawsuits To Be Included in 3M Earplugs Hearing Loss Settlement Talks

3M earplugs settlement talks ordered in the MDL will also include state court claims filed in Minnesota, where 3M Company's headquarters are located and a number of claims are pending

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal 3M earplugs hearing loss lawsuits has granted a request to include cases filed in Minnesota state court as part of a court-ordered mediation process, to advance the goal reaching a global settlement to resolve all claims.

3M Company and its Aearo Technologies unit face nearly 250,000 product liability lawsuits filed by U.S. military veterans, each raising similar allegations that its Combat Arms earplugs were defectively designed, and failed to provide adequate ear protection.

Although the company knew about the problems, lawsuits allege 3M continued to sell the earplugs to the U.S. military, which provided them as standard issue equipment to all service members between 2004 and 2015.

Over the past year, 3M Company has been ordered to pay millions in damages in a series of early trial dates, which were held to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, estimates suggest it may be necessary for the company to pay tens of billions in earplug hearing loss settlements to avoid each individual claim going to trial.

Given common questions of fact and law presented in the litigation, claims filed throughout the federal court system are centralized as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, who has been presiding over coordinated discovery and preparing several large “waves” of claims for trial next year.

Before returning thousands of individual claims to U.S. District Courts nationwide, Judge Rodgers appointed Randi Ellis as a mediator earlier this year, and ordered that the parties participate in a series of 3M earplug settlement talks over this past summer.

Those initial efforts by the court to promote a settlement were side tracked when 3M had its Aearo Technologies subsidiary declare bankruptcy, and attempted to use the filing to delay all potential trial dates and sweep the litigation into the U.S. bankruptcy system.

However, last month, a bankruptcy judge rejected that move, indicating that 3M will continue to face the earplug lawsuits, since it is independently liable for hearing loss caused by the products.

Days later, Judge Rodgers issued an order which called for multi-day settlement talks with Ellis to be conducted by September 30, and directed specific lawyers and representatives of 3M Company to appear in person with settlement authority.

In an order (PDF) issued on September 9, Judge Rodgers granted a request made by Ellis to include lawyers pursuing state court litigation in Minnesota, where 3M Company’s headquarters are located and a number of lawsuits have been filed.

“In furtherance of the common goal of a global resolution for all of the [Combat Arms Earplug] claims against 3M Company, Special Master Randi Ellis has requested that the Minnesota state court litigation be included in the upcoming MDL mediation,” according to the order. “The Court has confirmed that the Minnesota plaintiff leadership wishes to participate and that Judge Laurie J. Miller, who oversees the Minnesota litigation, approves. Accordingly, a representative of the Minnesota litigation will attend the mediation and be included thereafter as requested by Mediator Ellis.

If settlement talks to resolve the 3M earplug hearing loss claims are not successful, Judge Rodgers has indicated that the “wave” litigation will resume and another case is set for trial to begin next month.

1 Comments

  • CharlesSeptember 16, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    Do u think 3m will settle the law suit before this year is over or will it carry over to next year

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