What is the Average Payout for the Military Earplug Lawsuit?

The average payout in the military earplug lawsuit is still being determined, as lawsuits against 3M are still in litigation. However, in 2018, 3M settled a whistleblower lawsuit and paid the Department of Justice $9.1 million for selling defective earplugs to the U.S. military. These defective earplugs have led to hearing damage, tinnitus, and other conditions, according to thousands of service members.

The company now faces a multidistrict litigation case (MDL) brought by thousands of service members who faced similar injuries. After five successful bellwether trials, plaintiffs received damages ranging from $1.1 million to $8.2 million. While not every victim of 3M earplug damage will receive multi-million dollar awards, it is a good sign that damages are available for injuries caused by dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2.

How much is the 3M earplug lawsuit payout per person?

Unlike a class action mass tort, most cases in multidistrict litigation are treated individually. This means there is no single payout that applies to all cases. Currently, the defective product case related to the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (CAEv2) is consolidated into MDL No. 2885: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation.

When a case goes to trial, the jury considers how much the plaintiff should receive—if any—based on the merits of their case, the evidence presented, and their documented compensable damages.

If you file a lawsuit against 3M, you could win:

Economic damages

Your economic losses refer to the costs related to your injury and other financial losses. They include:

  • Any out-of-pocket medical care costs related to your injury
  • A visit to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment, as needed
  • Expenses related to treatment procedures, such as implants
  • The cost of equipment, including hearing aids and other devices
  • Lost wages if you missed work because of your symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment
  • Diminished earning capacity if you cannot work your previous job because of your injuries and complications
  • Additional related expenses, such as travel costs to see a specialist

Non-economic losses

Non-economic losses are those intangible damages you suffered because of your injuries, diagnosis, and treatment. Depending on your symptoms, these losses could be substantial. For example, people with severe bilateral tinnitus report that it can dramatically affect their emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

You may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Current and future physical pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Emotional trauma and mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities
  • Other psychological effects

Punitive damages

Punitive damages are the compensation awarded to penalize the liable party or parties in a case. In this litigation, 3M stands accused of acting in a particularly shocking way that disregards the health and safety of military servicemen and women as well as other consumers. Because of the accusations against the company and the evidence to support it, juries have awarded large punitive awards to the winning plaintiffs thus far.

How much you may be able to recover will depend on many factors, including:

  • The severity of your injury
  • The cost of your medical bills
  • The extent to which your injuries have affected your life
  • The strength of the evidence in your case

Your attorney will be able to discuss how your unique circumstances could affect your compensation. They will also talk with you about the potential outcome of your case. Most will probably not go to trial. A global or individual settlement offer may be possible in these cases.

If you used the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 and have hearing loss, you may be able to pursue money damages. A cash payout may be possible. A law firm representing military personnel in these cases can typically review your case for free and explain your options.

How much is the 3M lawsuit worth?

While there is no way to know exactly how much you might be able to recover through a lawsuit or settlement based on your hearing damage and other injuries, seven plaintiffs know the outcome of their cases so far. As of November 1, 2021, five bellwether trials have concluded, covering the claims of seven plaintiffs. Of these, five plaintiffs have won and recovered compensation.

However, the payouts in military earplug lawsuits have fallen across a wide range. Payouts have included:

  • $7.1 million: The initial bellwether trial covered the cases of three servicemen who suffered hearing damage after using 3M earplugs. The Florida jury awarded the men $7.1 million. This includes $2.1 million per victim in punitive damages.
  • Defense verdict: The second trial was a win for 3M.
  • $1.1 million: Veteran Lloyd Baker received a $1.1 million judgment in this June 2021 trial. Baker suffered hearing damage while using the Combat Arms earplugs for hearing protection during service.
  • $8.2 million: Brandon Adkins suffered hearing loss and tinnitus after using the 3M military issue dual-ended earplugs on two tours in Afghanistan. In September 2021, a Florida jury awarded him $8.2 million in damages.
  • Defense verdict: Michelle Blum, an Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and National Guard veteran, sued 3M and her case went to trial in 2021. Unfortunately, there were questions about the extent to which Blum suffered hearing loss after use of 3M earplugs. The jury returned a verdict in favor of 3M.

Several more plaintiffs will likely go to trial in this court before the end of 2021. If plaintiffs with well-documented injuries and a proven history of using these earplugs continue to receive substantial awards, 3M could begin to pursue other ways to end these cases.

The most likely option would be for 3M to make a global settlement offer or to proceed with individual settlements. At that point, the claimants could opt to accept the payout, attempt to negotiate a better settlement, or take their case to trial.

How many people are in the 3M earplug lawsuit?

According to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation, there were 272,381 pending actions against 3M in MDL 2885 as of October 15, 2021. This is by far the largest number of active cases in an MDL currently in the United States. Based on the number of earplugs manufactured and how long they were standard issue in the U.S. military, thousands more may have injuries.

These lawsuits accuse 3M of:

  • Designing, manufacturing, and selling defective earplugs
  • Marketing and shipping the earplugs despite knowing that design flaws could prevent them from effectively sealing in the ear canal
  • Failing to warn the U.S. military and other consumers that the defect could allow hearing damage to occur unless special instructions were followed
  • Failing to provide instructions that would reduce or eliminate concerns related to the defective plugs

The Army and other branches of the military issued these earplugs between 2003 and 2015. This means they were likely used in training and deployments related to:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • War in Somalia
  • Operation Ocean Shield

You may have used defective 3M earplugs in many other settings during military service.

Most plaintiffs pursuing legal action have symptoms and conditions that include:

  • Hearing damage, loss, or significant impairments
  • Tinnitus (often bilateral), or a constant ringing in the ears
  • Concerns about balance and mobility
  • Other symptoms of hearing damage or injuries to the inner or middle ear

How long will the 3M earplug lawsuit take?

Unfortunately, mass torts take time. Especially when the case accuses a large, multinational conglomerate of wrongdoing, it can take years to navigate the legal process and reach a position when:

  • All remaining cases return to their original jurisdiction for trial, or
  • The liable party offers global or individual settlements to conclude remaining lawsuits, or
  • The plaintiffs drop any remaining cases because of overwhelming losses in bellwether trials

As of November 2021, MDL 2885 is well underway. It is centralized for pretrial proceedings and bellwether trials in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, before Judge M. Casey Rodgers. While this case has an unusually high number of bellwether trials scheduled, they are moving forward in quick succession.

The wait now is to see how many significant losses it takes before 3M moves to settle some or all of the almost 300,000 cases, or if they do. Until it is clear how they plan to handle the pending actions, it is difficult to estimate how long it could take to know the outcome of your lawsuit.

When will the 3M lawsuit be settled?

As of November 1, 2021, there have been no settlements in cases related to MDL 2885. 3M has not made a settlement offer to any individual despite facing more than a quarter-million defective earplug lawsuits. However, speculation is that they may move to settle as many of these claims as possible if the upcoming bellwether trials end in the same way as the first five.

While 3M is a large, multinational conglomerate, they cannot pay out multi-million dollar settlements to every plaintiff who filed a case against them under MDL 2885. In the first bellwether case alone, the plaintiffs received $7.1 million, including $2.1 million each in punitive damages.

The concern for 3M is that these judgments are more than most people expected. The expenses related to living with and managing hearing damage are relatively minor—compared to living with some forms of catastrophic injuries. However, the juries in these cases have felt that:

  • 3M acted in a particularly inappropriate way
  • The victims deserve justice
  • Paying significant punitive damages is the best way to hold the company liable

While 3M has won two of the bellwether trials, both had admittedly weak evidence to link hearing damage with the use of these earplugs. The verdicts in cases with more robust evidence have all awarded substantial compensation to the plaintiffs.

If 3M does move to offer a settlement to plaintiffs with pending lawsuits, this will likely be a global settlement. However, that does not mean that all plaintiffs will receive the same amount; plaintiffs can still receive compensation according to the seriousness of their injuries and the strength of their case. Those who suffer debilitating balance concerns or tinnitus may be able to receive a higher settlement amount, for instance.

While there is no guarantee that 3M will decide to offer a settlement, this seems like the most likely outcome in these cases.

You can learn more about the path your lawsuit may take by discussing the strength of your claim with your attorney. A law firm handling these cases can speak frankly with you about if they believe a court award or settlement is possible based on your diagnosis, history of earplug use, and other factors.

How a military earplug lawsuit attorney can help you seek compensation

You can work with a military earplug lawsuit lawyer to help you bring a case against 3M and seek compensation for your losses. If you choose to work with a lawyer, they can handle all of the details of your lawsuit for you. This may include:

  • Investigating the details of your case
  • Explaining your legal options in terms you can understand
  • Gathering evidence from your medical records and expert testimony to speak to your condition
  • Filing all necessary paperwork for your lawsuit
  • Representing your interests during negotiations or litigation
  • Helping you seek the best possible payout
  • Keeping you updated about any progress related to your case

MDL cases are complicated, and you may find it especially helpful to have a lawyer on your side.

The cost of paying for a lawyer

Some people are uncertain about whether or not they can afford a lawyer. You should know that legal representation may be more within reach than you think.

Many injury lawyers will work based on contingency fees. This means that you will owe no upfront payments unless the lawyer wins compensation for you. Also, many injury lawyers will offer a free case evaluation so you can learn your options. This makes the process of seeking legal help relatively risk free.

Get connected with an attorney’s office to begin your case against 3M today

Our team is standing by to help you determine your next steps in a defective earplug lawsuit. We are a referral service that can connect you with a mass tort lawsuit lawyer today. You may be eligible to join the MDL against 3M, seek a settlement, or file a lawsuit in another jurisdiction.

Fill out our contact form for help with your case or to learn how you can hold the manufacturer accountable.