How Much Compensation Do You Get For Defective Ear Plugs?

How much is an earplug lawsuit worth?

The first verdict in 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2885 awarded the claimants much more compensation than many expected. These cases allege that 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (CAEv2) had serious defects that caused hearing loss, tinnitus, and other symptoms.

These earplugs were standard issue for the Army and other branches of the U.S. military for more than a decade. If you used these characteristic yellow and green earplugs and suffered hearing damage, you may be able to join the mass tort currently in progress. You could receive compensation for your treatment, expenses, intangible losses, and punitive damages.

What is the average payout for the 3M earplug lawsuit?

As of November 2021, only seven earplug litigation cases have gone to trial. They are the first bellwether cases underway as a part of the multidistrict litigation, MDL 2885. These cases will help shape the outcomes of other cases, although they do not have a direct effect on any other lawsuits. In the five payouts won by the plaintiffs to date, the average award is around $3 million per person. This amount includes significant punitive damages.

While there are tens of thousands of cases already filed, many more military members and veterans may qualify. The company provided CAEv2 earplugs to fulfill government contracts, and many servicemen and women used them during training, deployment, and active combat.

The lawsuits filed against 3M allege that:

  • The company and its subsidiary designed, marketed, and sold defective earplugs, including those sold to the U.S. military.
  • Both ends of the dual-ended earplugs had a defect that prevented them from effectively sealing in the ear canals of users.
  • The defect kept the earplugs from performing properly.
  • The company knew there might be an issue, but it failed to warn consumers.
  • There was a way to make the earplugs effective, but the company did not update the instructions to the U.S. Military or the men and women who used them.

The CAEv2 earplugs in question have a yellow end and a green end. In the marketing materials, these earplugs touted two levels of hearing protection depending on which end the user inserted in the ear canal. The yellow end of the earplug claimed to

  • Block loud sounds that occur intermittently and prevent hearing damage
  • Allow users to hear spoken instructions and other speech and softer sounds

The green end claimed to provide protection from constant or ongoing loud sounds such as machine gun fire or frequent explosions. In truth, the earplugs were too short to fit properly into normal or large ear canals, making it impossible for most users to create the necessary seal to protect the eardrum from damage. 

According to a report in Military Times, the earplugs were most commonly used by those serving in the military between 2003 and 2015. There was no recall, so some could still be in use today. This could affect those who deployed in:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom 
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Somalia Operation Ocean Shield
  • Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya

Most plaintiffs in MDL 2885 have one or more of the following symptoms or conditions: 

  • Hearing loss, sometimes profound 
  • Tinnitus
  • Balance concerns
  • Other hearing- or ear-related diagnoses

Working with a mass tort attorney who handles mass torts and is familiar with these lawsuits may be the best option for learning more about your case and how much you might be able to recover.

Will 3M settle the earplug lawsuit?

There have not yet been settlements in any 3M earplug lawsuits as of November 1, 2021. However, as MDL 2885 moves forward through more bellwether trials, they may eventually settle. Following the big win for the three plaintiffs in the first bellwether case in April, there was speculation that the company might offer a global settlement to close the remaining cases if future verdicts were similar.

How multidistrict litigation works

Multidistrict litigation offers a way for plaintiffs with similar cases against the same defendant to work together. It also keeps smaller courts from having a backlog of hundreds of similar cases. Before a case becomes MDL, it requires approval by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

After approval, the panel then consolidates the cases under a U.S. District Court. This decision allows all cases to move forward at the same time, including sharing resources, identifying experts, proving causation, and taking care of other steps necessary during discovery. The cases remain combined and under the District Court jurisdiction for pretrial proceedings and several bellwether trials.

Bellwether cases are the initial trials in multidistrict litigation. They serve as a way for both sides to try out the strength of their case and see how a jury reacts. In the initial bellwether trial in the 3M earplugs litigation, the jury opted to award large settlements that included significant punitive awards.

How the bellwether trials affect other lawsuits in multidistrict litigation

Unlike a class action case and other types of mass torts where the jury verdict affects all members of the class, the ruling in a bellwether case is only representative of what could happen when other lawsuits go to trial. 

While the outcome of these bellwether cases only affects the three plaintiffs whose cases were heard, they often indicate how future juries will view the evidence presented. Hearing damage is not generally expensive to manage, and the monetary losses are usually minimal. However, the jury held 3M accountable through punitive damages. 

In addition to the MDL, there are more than 1,000 lawsuits against 3M related to these defective earplugs in Minnesota state courts. These cases are unaffected by any actions that occur as a part of the MDL, although the strength of evidence in these bellwether trials could also encourage 3M to settle other lawsuits.

3M earplug settlement

If you pursue an earplug lawsuit and payout, your verdict or settlement might be significantly different than the previous outcomes or other settlements. This is because your attorney will work to negotiate a settlement based on the unique facts of your case. 

The recoverable damages in a lawsuit against 3M may include:

  • Your diagnosis and treatment expenses
  • The cost of implants, hearing aids, or other prescribed equipment
  • Lost wages if you missed work for treatment
  • Reduced earning capacity if your hearing loss affects your ability to work certain jobs

Additionally, non-economic damages may be available. In some cases, they could be significant. Hearing loss, tinnitus, and other related concerns can cause a substantial decrease in quality of life. Recoverable intangible losses could include: 

  • Past and future pain and suffering 
  • Reduced quality of life and diminished enjoyment in life
  • Emotional distress

On top of these compensable damages, punitive damages might be available. They are what comprised much of the awards in the first five cases won by claimants.

It is essential to remember, however, that each of these lawsuits is unique. How much your lawsuit might be worth will depend on the expenses, losses, injuries you experienced, and other facts specific to your particular case. Those who have the most significant hearing loss will generally qualify for the largest settlements or verdicts.

Your 3M Earplug lawsuit attorney will be able to review your case and document your damages to help you better understand the potential value of a settlement or verdict.

3M earplug lawsuit update 2021

According to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation, as of October 15, 2021, MDL 2885: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation is by far the most extensive multidistrict litigation currently underway in the United States. In mid-October, 272,381 actions were pending. This figure represents almost 300,000 men and women who served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and are now living with a hearing impairment.

This mass tort is centralized for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, before Judge M. Casey Rodgers. The discovery process and pretrial motions have concluded, and the bellwether trials are well underway.

These cases include: 

Plaintiffs one through three

The first bellwether trial in the litigation against 3M lasted for five weeks. This trial looked at the cases of three plaintiffs whose cases had similar facts. The Florida jury determined 3M was legally responsible. It awarded the three plaintiffs $7.1 million. This includes more than $2 million in punitive damages per person.

Plaintiff four

The fourth plaintiff to go to trial, Dustin McComb, was not able to prove conclusively that his hearing damage occurred as a result of the defective products made by 3M. According to the report by Bloomberg Law, this lack of evidence led the jury to side with the manufacturer in this trial.

Plaintiff five

This June 2021 trial presented evidence that plaintiff Lloyd Baker suffered hearing damage while training at Fort Lewis in Washington State. Baker relied on the dual-end Combat Arms earplug Version 2 to prevent the loud sounds of a 160-decibel gun from causing injury. The jury awarded him $1.1 million for his injuries and punitive damages.

Plaintiff six

The jury in Brandon Atkins’ lawsuit awarded him $8.2 million in September 2021. Adkins lives with hearing loss and bilateral tinnitus, or a constant ringing in both ears. He is an Army veteran and used the Combat Arms v2 during two tours in Afghanistan.

Plaintiff seven

In October 2021, the jury returned a verdict that supported the defense. 3M won the case against Michelle Blum, a veteran who reported relatively minor hearing damage. 

This verdict was expected because of weak evidence in the case. In fact, her counsel asked to withdraw the case a few months before, but 3M would not agree. 

Several more cases are on the docket for 2021. Because of the large number of cases involved in this MDL, the judge is working to move as many cases to trial as possible. However, it is unlikely that every case will need to go before a judge and jury.

As more and more plaintiffs with strong evidence tie their hearing loss to the defective earplugs receive large payouts in jury trials, 3M will likely reconsider their approach. A global settlement offer or another effort to settle as many cases as possible for smaller cash payouts is possible.

You can still take action to hold 3M accountable for your hearing loss

If you have hearing loss and tinnitus, hearing impairment, inner or middle ear damage, or other concerns, you could have a case. You will need to document your usage of 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2. An attorney familiar with this litigation can determine if you are eligible to join the ongoing multidistrict litigation underway or pursue other legal action to seek financial recovery.

While the outcomes of the current bellwether trials are not necessarily indicative of the value of a settlement or verdict you could receive, it is a good sign for current and future claimants that the juries in these cases:

  • Believe 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 is a defective product
  • See a link between these defective earplugs and the injuries suffered by plaintiffs
  • Value the claimants’ injuries fairly, including intangible losses
  • Want to hold 3M accountable for their actions by awarding significant punitive damages

Most people who used these earplugs are military personnel, but some claimants bringing cases are civilians, as well. Being a member of the military or veteran is not necessary to file a lawsuit.

Consult an attorney for your defective earplugs lawsuit today

You can discuss your potential case with a law firm today for free. Connect with a legal advocate familiar with the 3M Combat Arms litigation to learn more about your rights, options for compensation, and a complimentary assessment of your case.

Fill out our contact form today for help with your case or to learn more about how to hold the manufacturer liable.