The 3M earplugs litigation has produced substantial verdicts for plaintiffs. Amounts have ranged from $2 million to $77.5 million in trials for service members who claim to have suffered hearing loss due to 3M’s defective dual-ended combat earplugs. Recently, a judge rejected 3M’s motion to retry or reduce the $50 million verdict awarded to a former Green Beret who alleged the earplugs caused his hearing loss and tinnitus. This decision marks a favorable development for victims of 3M earplugs as courts debate whether 3M can be held liable for earplugs despite its subsidiary’s, Aearo Technologies, bankruptcy filing.
3M Earplugs Possess Dangerous Design Flaw
Tens of thousands of service members claim that defective 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms V2 Earplugs resulted in individuals developing hearing loss and tinnitus. 3M earplugs have a detrimental design flaw that leaves the stems too short to fit correctly in the user’s ear canal. The earplugs do not adequately seal off the ear canal and can easily loosen, thus exposing the wearer to loud noises such as explosions, artillery, aircraft, and tanks. Lawsuits allege that 3M knew about the defect but failed to inform the military or provide instructions to direct users to secure the earplugs.
Juries Have Awarded Millions to Veterans Harmed by 3M Earplugs
The 3M multidistrict litigation has grown to be the largest mass tort in history, with over 250,000 claims filed against the earplugs manufacturer. Nationwide, veterans who used the hazardous 3M earplugs between 2003 to 2015 have filed lawsuits against the company, citing hearing loss and tinnitus. MDL-2885 IN RE: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Product Liability Litigation has an extensive bellwether trial record, with sixteen bellwether trials to date. Although six of these trials yielded defense verdicts, ten bellwether trials have ended in massive victories for plaintiffs. Juries have sided with injured service members on numerous occasions and granted sizeable verdicts, including:
- $7.1 million in May 2021
- $1.1 million in June 2021
- $8.2 million in September 2021
- $13 million and $22 million in November 2021
- $110 million in January 2022
- $8 million and $50 million in March 2022
- $2.2 million in April 2022
- $77.5 million in June 2022
Judge Rejects 3M’s Attempt to Reduce $50 Million Verdict
In March 2022, a jury ruled in favor of U.S. service member Luke Vilsmeyer in his lawsuit against 3M. The Indiana veteran attributed his hearing loss and tinnitus to the company’s flawed earplugs, which he used from 2006 to 2017. It was the second-largest verdict at that time and the seventh bellwether loss for 3M. The earplugs manufacturer expressed its disappointment over the ruling and vowed to appeal it, as it had already tried to do with several other verdicts.
However, on October 25, 2022, Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. upheld Vilsmeyer’s verdict. The bankruptcy judge argued that attorneys provided substantial scientific evidence to support Vilsmeyer’s case. Also, the judge explained that his compelling testimony offered insight into how his hearing damage impacted his relationship with his family, his emotional state, and his sleep. 3M rebuked the verdict, stating that Vilsmeyer’s hearing loss is mild and treatable. Yet, Judge Dalton Jr. backed the jury’s evaluation of $50 million to Vilsmeyer, given the plaintiff’s credibility and truthfulness.
3M again announced that it intends to appeal Judge Dalton Jr.’s decision.