The 3M earplug claim is a class-action lawsuit in which more than 300,000 of veterans are suing 3M for defective earplugs. Is the 3M earplug lawsuit worth it? Allow me to take you back in time to the history of 3M earplugs to understand the background of the 3M earplug claims and 3M earplug lawsuit update 2022.
In this blog, we will also have a detailed discussion on 3M bellwether trials update of June 2022.
History of 3M Combat Earplugs
Going into the history of 3M earplugs, let us check out the shocking statistical data.
Do you know? The most prevalent service-connected disability for men and women in the military is hearing loss. According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, more than 1.3 million veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss in 2020, while more than 2.3 million received compensation for tinnitus. I am sure you may be wondering about these statistics.
What makes veterans more prone to hearing loss and tinnitus than civilians? Constant exposure to high-intensity noise, such as blasts, small-arms fire, IEDs, artillery fire, etc., causes hearing loss in veterans. Tinnitus is the persistent ringing in the ears, closely associated with hearing loss.
Loud noises disrupt the eardrum and also the inner ear’s small bones and the cochlea that translate sound into electrical impulses. Research studies have proven that tinnitus in veterans can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in veterans.
Symptoms of Military-Related Hearing Damage
According to the Department of Defense, the following are the symptoms of military-related hearing damages.
- Difficulty understanding the speech of others, especially against background noise.
- Buzzing or ringing in the ears.
- Muffled speech and other sounds.
- Trouble hearing consonants.
- Withdrawal from conversations.
- Trouble in concentration.
- Trouble in sleeping.
- A feeling of “fullness” in the ears after leaving a noisy area.
Seeking a solution to the serious concern, the United States military decided to provide protective earplugs to the veterans.
In 2003, Aearo Technologies was the leading manufacturer of personal protection equipment like advanced hearing protection devices, safety eyewear, face shields, respirators, fall protection equipment, etc.
The earplugs manufactured by Aearo Technologies, LLC were very popular and entering into an exclusive military contract; they designed the Combat Arms version 2 (CAEv2) earplugs for the US Military. In 2003, 20,000 pairs of combat earplugs were sold to the US Military, temporarily exhausting the whole national stock.
How do the Combat Earplugs Work?
The 3M CAEv2 earplugs are designed with two inverted cones, olive and yellow, connected by a short stem. The earplugs can be described as non-linear, with selective attenuation feature. The company claimed that their dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs would protect the veterans from loud noises like explosions and gunshots while still being able to perceive quieter sounds.
Wearing the plug in the ear with the olive-colored end in the “closed” or “locked” position, like a regular earplug, blocks all sound. The plugs significantly reduce loud noises such as battlefield explosions when worn with the yellow end in the ear in the “open” or “unblocked” configuration. This allows the wearer to hear quieter sounds while blocking only loud noises.
Acquisition of Aearo by 3M
In 2007, 3M entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition of Aearo for a total purchase price of $1.2 billion. They took over the contract with the U.S military and supplied the earplugs. Version 4 earplugs overtook Version 2 earplugs in 2015, and thousands of 3M Combat earplugs were supplied to the United States Defense Logistics Agency between 2007-2015. The product was extensively used by the U.S. Air force, Army, Marines, and Navy during this period.
History of 3M Earplug Lawsuits
The destiny of 3M Combat Earplugs changed when a whistleblower claim was made by Moldex-Metric Inc. Moldex, a respiratory and hearing protection product manufacturer, filed a whistleblower lawsuit Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.) against 3M on May 12, 2016.
Under the False Claim Act, Moldex claimed that the end of the 3M earplug that was inserted into a user’s ear canal was not long enough. As a result, the sound could pass through, and the user could be exposed to aircraft, gunfire, and explosions. Moldex claimed that the 3M earplugs were loose, unbeknownst to the wearer or onlookers. They did not offer any safety to the veterans’ ears as per the company’s claim.
The arguments put forward in Moldex whistleblower lawsuit against defective 3M earplugs are as follows
- 3M made false statements to the government regarding the safety of 3M earplugs.
- 3M and Aearo knew that their earplugs were substandard.
- 3M did not disclose design defects to the users.
- 3M employees were aware of the product defect.
- 3M earplugs did not protect the veterans from hearing loss and ear injuries.
- 3M relied on inaccurate testing methods to check product efficiency.
- The noise reduction rating claimed by 3M was not accurate.
Denying the allegations in the settlement agreement, on July 26, 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9,100,000 to resolve the claim. Moldex, the relator in the lawsuit, received $1,911,000 from the settlement amount.
3M Earplug Lawsuit Updates
The Moldex whistleblower lawsuit was just the beginning of 3M’s rotten luck. After the lawsuit settlement, 3M had to face a procession of defective earplugs lawsuits filed by the veterans. Let us find out more on 3M earplug lawsuit 2022.
How many people are in the 3M earplug lawsuit? More than 250,000 claims and lawsuits have been made against 3M by veterans, current service members, and others, alleging that the earplug design was defective. The plaintiffs claim that they sustain tinnitus and hearing loss related to defective earplugs usage.
With the increasing number of lawsuits rising against 3M for defective earplugs, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized and transferred the 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2885, to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida on April 3, 2019. The pretrial proceedings were initiated before Judge M. Casey Rodgers.
Chronology of 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update 2022
Let’s dive into the details of 3M bellwether trial update 2022, that would help you grasp more on the lawsuit status.
The first bellwether verdict in the 3M earplug lawsuit included three former service members, Stephen Hacker, Luke Estes, and Lewis Keefer. They claimed that the usage of defective 3M earplugs caused hearing loss in them. The jury awarded each plaintiff $2.1 million, with the remainder going to pain and suffering, medical expenditures, and lost wages. Mr. Hacker was awarded an extra $160,000, Mr. Estes was given an additional $350,500, and Mr. Keefer was awarded an extra $320,000.
After the verdict, 3M argued that the plaintiffs did not meet the burden of proving that the 3M earplugs were defectively designed and ended up in their hearing damages. They also stated that the U.S. military was also responsible for designing the earplugs.
The second bellwether trial involved Dustin McCombs, who served the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2011 and the West Virginia National Guard. The 3M chose the plaintiff, and he claimed that he did not have any hearing damages before his military service. The diagnosis of tinnitus in the plaintiff was claimed to be the result of the defective 3M earplugs. The jury in this bellwether trial was unable to relate the defective 3M earplugs with the plaintiff’s damages and ended in a verdict favoring 3M in May 2021.
The third bellwether trial in the 3M earplug lawsuit trial involved the plaintiff named Lloyd Baker, who served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2012. The plaintiff accused that his hearing damages resulted from defective 3M earplugs. The plaintiff’s attorney could not prove four of the five claims and agreed with the 3M that the product was not defective. The jury produced a verdict, with 3M and the plaintiff having 62% and 38% liability, respectively. On June 18, 2021, the second bellwether trial ended up favoring the plaintiff with a verdict of $1,100,000.
The fourth bellwether trial was scheduled for the plaintiff named Taylor in September 2021. The jury dismissed Taylor’s case, indicating incomplete document submission following discovery guidelines. Plaintiff Brandon Adkins, in that circumstance, was picked by the defense, and the claim was governed by Washington law. The trial ended in a plaintiff verdict of $8,200,000.
In the fifth bellwether trial of the 3M earplug lawsuit, the plaintiff was Michelle Marie Blum. It was a clever pick from the defense side, knowing that the plaintiff-side had weaker arguments to substantiate the damages sustained. The plaintiff claimed that she suffered from hearing loss but did not seek medical attention until 2019, when the lawsuit was filed. The testimony of the plaintiff also appeared weak before the jury.
Three months before the trial, the plaintiff’s counsel tried to dismiss the case. However, 3M opposed the dismissal, and the bellwether trial resulted in a defense verdict. The fifth bellwether trial added confidence to the 3M, making them have a second thought about reaching a global 3M hearing protection lawsuit settlement at that point.
The sixth bellwether trial was of Joseph Palanki, who, like all the plaintiffs, claimed hearing loss related to the use of defective 3M earplugs. The trial again ended in a defense verdict. The plaintiff counsel chose the seventh bellwether plaintiff. The plaintiff named Guillermo Camarillorazo, was still an active-duty member of the Army. The trial ended in a plaintiff verdict of $13,062,320 in total damages, including $12 million for punitive damages.
Theodore Finley, who served the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2014, was selected as the plaintiff in the eighth bellwether trial in the 3M lawsuit. The plaintiff claimed that he was exposed to loud sounds during training and combat. The plaintiff used 3m earplugs and was later diagnosed with tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears.
Finley’s medical experts concluded that his bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss were caused by the 3M earplugs’ lack of protection. In November 2021, the bellwether trial resulted in a verdict of $22,500,000, favoring the plaintiff.
3M bagged two consecutive victories in the ninth and tenth bellwether trials. The ninth bellwether verdict was declared on December 15, 2021. The Pensacola jury in the trial pointed out that the plaintiff failed to prove that the 3M earplugs were faulty. The plaintiff in this trial was a former U.S. Army soldier Carlos Montero, who served the military from 1995-to 2018.
The tenth defense verdict was declared on December 17, 2021. Plaintiff Carter Stelling served the U.S. Army and the Kentucky Army National Guard and accused that defective 3M earplugs were responsible for hearing loss and tinnitus. The trial ended in a defense verdict favoring the 3M company.
The plaintiffs for the eleventh bellwether trial were Ronald E. Sloan and William Wayman, who served the U.S army. William Wayman was diagnosed with tinnitus and PTSD, whereas Ronald E. Sloan suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus. After 12 days of trial, the jury declared a plaintiff verdict of $110,000,000. Each plaintiff in the trial received $15 million as compensatory damages and $40 million as punitive damages. On May 31,2022, the punitive damages for Mr. Wayman was cut down by the jury to $21.7 million as per the Colorado law.
On March 25, 2022, the plaintiff Steven Wilkerson in Tallahassee, was awarded $8,000,000 in the 12th bellwether trial. During his service in the Army and Army National Guard between 1999 and 2013, he used 3M earplugs, and he was suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus. The plaintiff was ordered genetic testing for hearing loss as he testified that he had a family history of hearing damage.
Luke Vilsmeyer, a U.S. Army soldier, was granted $50,000,000 by jurors in Pensacola, Florida, after the 13th bellwether trial in the 3M earplug MDL on, March 25, 2022. The plaintiff claimed irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus after using 3 M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 from 2006 to 2017 during his service.
Denise Kelley was the plaintiff in the 14th bellwether trial, and she was the 2nd female bellwether plaintiff to go to trial. On April 8, 2022, the trial ended in a defense verdict, reducing the average jury compensation in 3M earplug lawsuits in 2022 to $38 million per soldier.
The 15th bellwether trial in the 3M earplug lawsuit involved Jonathan Vaughn, a veteran of the U.S. Army. The plaintiff proved that his hearing damages were related to defective 3M earplugs, and the company concealed the faulty design issue to the users. Favoring the plaintiff, the jury awarded $2,200,000 in compensatory damages. There were no economic damages for medical expenditures or lost income, and all of the compensation was for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering.
The final bellwether trial was completed on May 20, 2022, and it was in favor of the claimant James Beal. The plaintiff proved fraudulent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment of the defendant. The jury awarded $5,000,000 in compensatory damages and $72,500,000 in punitive damages to the plaintiff. Beal was awarded a military hearing loss settlement of $77,500,000, the largest 3m earplug lawsuit individual payout in the 3M bellwether trials.
Out of the sixteen trials, ten were in favor of the plaintiffs and six in favor of the defendant. The details of the bellwether trials are listed in a nutshell below.
Completing the 16th bellwether trial on May 20, 2022, Judge Rogers has announced pre-trial discovery obligations for the next group of 3M earplug lawsuits. The scheduling order announced on May 26, 2022, is stringent and going to be a headache for the 3M lawyers, preparing all the lawsuits for trial. The order indicates that there will not be another 3M earplug trial in 2022 and increases the chances of 3M thinking of reaching a settlement by 2022 itself.
As per 3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit Attorneys, 2022 would be crucial in the 3M earplugs lawsuit timeline, with the bellwether trial verdicts. The next set of 500 3M earplug lawsuits have been selected for trial. In this year, more than 1,500 3M earplug lawsuits would go to trial.
It is anticipated that the MDL will reach a global settlement soon, with the plaintiffs and the defense reaching a settlement agreement. Afterward, the lawsuit may proceed as individual claims, depending on the agreement of each plaintiff to the global settlement.
Too many 3M military ear protection lawsuits are pending, that makes the defendant hesitate to think of a global settlement. The company is putting all the efforts to wipe away the claims with invalid service and medical records. Recently the 3M MDL judge agreed to dismiss a large block of about 20,000 cases with plaintiffs having no military service records. The decision will benefit the other plaintiffs in receiving a better 3m earplug lawsuit individual payout when 3M ends the game with a global settlement.
As per Judge Rogers’ order on June 13, 2022, the in-person settlement negotiations began on July 15, 2022. The goal of the order is to promote a full or partial settlement of as many 3M earplug lawsuits as possible. According to the order, the 3M earplug lawsuit has 233,883 plaintiffs. These earplug lawsuits will be returned back to their original districts for trial if a settlement cannot be reached.
On July 26, 2022, 3M disclosed that it would make a bankruptcy filing in an effort to settle the earplug claims. On July 26, 2022, Aearo Technologies, a division of 3M, also filed for voluntary chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to establish a trust fund for the resolution of the thousands of unresolved earplug claims. The bankruptcy, according to 3M, would help them resolve the earplug litigation more quickly, but the MDL plaintiffs have already vowed to contest the bankruptcy’s constitutionality.
Judge Rogers criticized them for seeking bankruptcy protection, despite their claims that they were broken. Rogers refuted 3M’s assertion that phony plaintiffs were not thoroughly investigated, noting that 80,000 claimants had already been rejected. Judge Rogers came to the conclusion that she intended to force 3M to demonstrate why filing for bankruptcy so soon after taking part in a settlement mediation wasn’t done in bad faith.
On August 26, 2022, an Indiana bankruptcy judge denied the bankruptcy and blocked the smart move of 3M to temporarily prevent the lawsuits from moving forward. Following the bankruptcy decision, 3M is under a lot of pressure from investors to go for a settlement and compensate the victimized veterans.
The two-day settlement talks were conducted on September 15, 2022, at the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida, which did not yield any positive news. 3M still believes that they can settle the lawsuit in bankruptcy court. The following settlement resumed on October 3, 2022.
On October 13 ,2022 3M Co. was granted permission to employ a quicker-than-normal process to overturn the judgement. The decision means that Aearo and 3M may have their appeal reviewed in a matter of months as opposed to the usual lengthy process.
On October 23, 2022, the 11th Circuit granted 3M’s request for a stay of an order by earplug MDL Judge Casey Rogers that barred 3M from appealing her MDL findings in the Aero bankruptcy matter.
In a significant win for U.S. veterans across the country, a United States bankruptcy judge in Indiana refused to support 3M Co.’s attempt to temporarily stop more than 230,000 lawsuits related to 3M’s defective earplugs from moving forward. These lawsuits accuse 3M and its…
— Bailey Glasser (@BaileyGlasser) August 26, 2022
The automatic stay given to Aearo Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M, does not extend to 3M. This implies that 3M may theoretically still be a defendant in the earplug litigation.
As per 3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit Attorneys, 2022 would be crucial in the 3M earplugs lawsuit timeline, with the 3M earplug lawsuit update June 2022.
Let us now have a quick glance at the timeline of 3M lawsuits.
Having discussed the 3M earplug lawsuit 2022, it is the right time to address some important 3M earplug lawsuit FAQs of the public.
3M Earplug Lawsuit FAQs
- How do you qualify for a earplug lawsuit?
If you have served as a veteran between 2003 and 2015 and used 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs regularly, you are eligible for a 3M earplug lawsuit if diagnosed with hearing damages. With valid medical evidence, you should substantiate that your hearing-related injuries stemmed from the usage of the 3M.
- What are the records essential to establish your defective 3M earplug lawsuit?
- DD 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
- Veterans Administration (VA) Record
- Military Active-Duty Record
Produce the records mentioned above and any additional medical evidence if you have any. A federal judge overseeing the MDL class action dropped a group of over 20,000 3M earplug complaints from the MDL class action on May 11, 2022, because the plaintiffs failed to present certain records to keep their case active
- Does the 3M lawsuit affect VA disability?
No. veterans’ disability benefits are not based on your income or financial needs and will not be affected by filing a 3M earplug lawsuit. If you have valid evidence that you have sustained damages due to the usage of defective 3M earplugs, you can very well proceed with the 3M earplug MDL.
- How much is a 3M earplugs case worth?
The following are the damages covered in a 3M earplug lawsuit.
- Medical bills related to hearing loss and associated illnesses.
- Lost wages.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment in life.
- Punitive damages.
- What is the average payout for the 3M earplug lawsuit?/ How much are veterans getting paid for the 3M lawsuit?
3M earplug lawsuit settlement amount per person would depend on the following factors.
- The extent of hearing damages they have sustained.
- Need for future care.
- Disability to earn for living.
- Disability to perform ADL.
- Disability to enjoy hobbies and other activities.
- Psychological impacts of the damage like PTSD and TBI.
3M earplug lawsuit individual settlement amounts may differ according to the severity of the damages sustained by the plaintiffs.
- How long will my 3M earplugs lawsuit take?
It depends on whether you are a part of the 3M earplug MDL. If you are a part of the MDL, you may get settled anytime. If you are a part of the MDL, your 3M earplug lawsuit settlement will move along with other lawsuits. The verdicts of the further bellwether trials scheduled in 2022 will give a better answer.
- When will the 3M lawsuit be settled?
If you are a part of the 3M MDL, you will be settled in a global settlement process that depends on the progress of the trials and the lawsuit. If you are not satisfied with the MDL settlement, your 3M earplugs lawsuit will take more time as you will proceed with an individual 3M earplug lawsuit.
- Can I still join the 3M lawsuit?
If you are a service member or veteran between 2003-2015 and suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss, you can still join the 3M Combat Arms Lawsuits. If you have a potential claim, join the lawsuit soon as the 3M lawsuit clock is ticking really fast. The statute of limitations may vary between 2-3 years, depending on the individual state rules.
- Has anyone received money from 3M?
No. As per the 3M earplug update, no claimant has been settled by 3M. What we have learned from the 3M lawsuits that have gone to trial is
- If the jury finds that 3M was negligent, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus in veterans, it will stem a considerable settlement amount.
- If the claimant fails to prove that his hearing damages are associated with the use of defective 3M earplugs, he will end in no payout.
- What settlement amounts do you expect for the average individual 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
As per expert 3M earplugs lawyers, the average 3M earplug lawsuit payout to veterans in the first round of settlement will average between $50,000 and $100,000.
3M earplug litigation has become the largest example of mass tort (MDL) in U.S. history and is considered a very sensitive product liability lawsuit involving veterans. With the mixed bellwether verdicts and the latest update on 3M earplug lawsuit, it is impossible to predict the destiny of 3M earplugs MDL.
Let us recall the words of the U. S. Attorney Sherri Lydon during the settlement of the Moldex whistleblower lawsuit. “And in this case, in particular, we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.” If the company had harmed our veterans with defective earplugs, let them face the consequences.
3M earplug lawsuit average payout depends on the damages sustained by the victims, and if you are a claimant, make sure that your medical records also advocate the injuries sustained. Never let your lawsuit get dropped due to incomplete records and weak medical record reviews. LezDo techmed is vivaciously involved in reviewing medical records of the victims involved in the 3M lawsuits.
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1/6 3M earplug lawsuit is the largest Multi-District Litigation in the U.S with more than 250,000 lawsuits.
Sail with us to know more about this happening litigation.#3mearplugs #3mlawsuits #lezdomedlegal pic.twitter.com/cxwUexABOK
— LezDo MedLegal (@LezDoMedLegal) November 4, 2022
‘3M-Science Applied to Life’. When the 3M earplug lawsuit is finally resolved, you’ll know if the company really applies science to improve life. However, we should also understand that 3M’s slip of the pen was acquiring Aearo without going through the litigation liabilities.
Let us be on the edge of our seats and look forward to the 3M earplugs lawsuit updates and 3M earplug lawsuit news.
Is the 3M earplug lawsuit worth it?
Will 3M settle the earplug lawsuit?
We would appreciate your opinions and further queries on the 3M lawsuit update 2022. Stay connected with us to know about 3M lawsuit status and 3M earplug lawsuit settlement update.