3M Lawsuits: Largest Verdict Yet in Defective Earplugs Case Awards $110 Million
The largest award yet granted in the defective military earplugs mass tort instructs 3M Company (3M) to pay $110 million in damages to two plaintiffs. U.S. Army veterans William Wayman and Ronald Sloan each received $15 million for personal losses and $40 million in punitive damages. The latter is intended to punish the defendants for especially egregious wrongdoing toward service members.
Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been brought for defective earplugs cases, which alleged that 3M’s defective dual-sided Combat Arms earplugs caused hearing loss and other ear damage to service members. 3M is scheduled to face five additional trials in 2022.
What to Know About the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuits
3M’s Combat Arms military earplugs were issued to American military personnel between 2003 and 2015.
While the dual-sided design was intended to allow service members the option to choose between two levels of sound protection-one that would cancel noise and one that would allow soldiers to hear communication from personnel-this design contained a significant defect. One side of the earplug was too short to be inserted correctly into the ear, leading to the earplug shifting in the ear canal and ear damage.
3M Settled with the DOJ Over Defective Earplugs
Investigation and litigation against 3M have been in process for years. In 2018, the company agreed to a $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for knowingly selling defective earplugs to the government (per Reuters).
In this case, the DOJ claimed 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling earplugs that were known to be defective and that the company did not disclose these defects. Additionally, the DOJ argued that 3M failed to warn service members of the risks of use related to the product.
Veterans File 3M Earplugs Lawsuits After DOJ Settlement
Since the 2018 case, hundreds of thousands of service members have filed product liability lawsuits against 3M. These lawsuits were largely consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) action in Northern Florida, known as MDL No. 2885 (per the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida). This MDL is widely acknowledged as the largest mass tort to be tried in federal courts in U.S. history.
Multidistrict Litigation Action Brings Resolution for Many Plaintiffs
The current mass tort against 3M has led to six trial verdicts for plaintiffs, resulting in over $160 million in damages. These settlement amounts ranged based on several factors involved in these cases.
The previous settlement for U.S. Army veteran Theodore Finley represented the largest verdict for plaintiffs in the 3M mass torts as of 2021. In December of that year, the jury awarded Finley $7.5 million for personal losses and $15 million for punitive damages (per Bloomberg Law). In another verdict from 2021, U.S. Army Sergeant Guillermo Camarillorazo was awarded $800,000 in damages for personal losses along with $12.25 million in punitive damages (per Reuters).
The settlements in these cases vary partly based on the nature of MDLs. Multidistrict litigation actions are distinct from class action lawsuits. MDL cases allow for unique awards based on the damages and evidence involved in each case. While consolidation of the 3M lawsuits through the MDL allows the courts to manage the high volume of cases more efficiently, it also allows plaintiffs to maintain the distinctness of their lawsuits against 3M.
Service Members Can Receive Compensation for Hearing Loss or Ear Damage
If you were injured after using a set of defective dual-sided Combat Arms earplugs, you could seek compensation. You might be able to file a lawsuit against 3M and join the current MDL or file a separate lawsuit.
You may be able to recover compensation for several costs and losses associated with hearing loss, ear damage, tinnitus, or a related diagnosis. Recoverable compensation could include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering