Judge M. Casey Rodgers, presiding over the 3M earplug multidistrict litigation, has ordered the parties to resume settlement talks. The decision to revive 3M earplug settlement negotiations comes as an appeals court recently heard arguments to overturn four early bellwether trial verdicts. There have been several developments in the 3M earplug litigation since Judge Rodgers dismissed mediation efforts three months earlier, in January 2023, that, in her opinion, necessitate another attempt at reaching an agreed-upon settlement.
Judge Renews 3M Earplug Settlement Negotiations
On May 2, 2023, Judge Rodgers issued a new mediation order for MDL-2885 IN RE: 3M COMBAT ARMS EARPLUG PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION. Approximately 255,000 lawsuits alleging the earplugs caused service members to suffer hearing loss or tinnitus are pending in the MDL.
Given the massive number of 3M cases, which comprise the largest MDL to date, Judge Rodgers believes it is worthwhile to revisit 3M earplug settlement negotiations. Judge Rodgers previously ended 3M earplug settlement efforts after seven months of unproductive back and forth between plaintiffs and defendants. While 3M remains adamant about settling lawsuits in bankruptcy court, Judge Rodgers noted that Aearo Technology’s bankruptcy has no bearing on claims against 3M. Conversely, Plaintiff Leadership insists on resolution through the MDL, a setting that 3M has come to loathe.
In the order, Judge Rodgers acknowledged that the last few months produced significant uncertainty for both parties, making it the ideal time to reconsider 3M earplug settlement negotiations. The fate of Aearo Technology’s bankruptcy is currently under scrutiny, including the decision on its validity as well as Aearo’s appeal of the bankruptcy court’s refusal to include 3M under its bankruptcy protections.
Also, the Eleventh Circuit Court heard oral arguments from 3M to overturn previous bellwether verdicts that yielded significant outcomes for plaintiffs. For these reasons, Judge Rodgers wrote, “All of those matters present difficult issues and considerable risk for both sides, which warrant renewed exploration of a mutually agreeable resolution.”
Judge Rodgers appointed two retired judges, the Honorable David R. Herndon and the Honorable Jeffrey J. Keyes, as mediators alongside Special Master Randi Ellis, who has served as the settlement mediator for some time.
Future of 3M Earplug Lawsuits
The 3M earplug litigation will likely resume after the courts resolve the bankruptcy debate and bellwether appeals.
If this next round of 3M earplug settlement negotiations proves unfruitful, Judge Rodgers is prepared to remand 3M claims to courts nationwide. Also, in Minnesota, bellwether trials against 3M are set for July 10, 2023, September 11, 2023, October 23, 2023, and February 5, 2024.