Status of

3M Earplug Lawsuit

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Updated: February 2022

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    3M earplugs are supposed to protect the user’s ears from loud noises that could damage their hearing. Workers widely use earplugs to dampen the effect of noise in their work environment. Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), an earplug produced by Aearo Technologies, was accepted as the U.S. Army’s standard earplug in 2003. After the company’s acquisition by 3M, this division continued to produce these earplugs. In 2018, a $9.1 million settlement occurred between 3M and the U.S. Department of Defense.

    The earplugs are dual-ended, designed to prevent loud noises from harming the eardrum while allowing the wearer to hear surrounding noises. Unfortunately, plaintiffs say this earplug doesn’t always fit well into the ear canal. Therefore, auditory injuries can still occur. Many of those using 3M earplugs between 2001 and 2006 suffered hearing loss and tinnitus, increasing related disability payouts by 319%. By 2007, 52% of the service members using earplugs suffered from debilitating hearing losses.

    Lawsuits filed against 3M aim to hold the earplug manufacturer accountable for the defective earplugs. Allegedly, Aearo Technologies (also known as 3M) knew about the shortcomings of the earplug since 2000 but failed to take action to remove them from use. As a result, about 139,000 people who suffered injuries, including hearing loss, filed cases against 3M in Florida’s Northern District Court after using the earplugs.

    Most of the complaints filed against 3M were from veterans and service members. The cases that concluded or are currently ongoing will act as bellwether trials to measure the strength of the evidence provided by plaintiffs. So far, 3M has undergone nine trials, with some cases decided in favor of 3M and others resulting in payouts to the plaintiffs for their losses. Currently, 3M is on the 10th bellwether trial.

    The Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) case constitutes the most significant consolidated federal mass tort in U.S. history. The multidistrict litigation (MDL) has about 285,553 active, pending cases. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers is hearing these lawsuits in the U.S. District Court in Florida’s Northern District.

    Over the years, many veterans and service members have alleged that the CAEv2 earplugs failed to protect their hearing. Plaintiffs have joined together to seek damages against the earplug manufacturer for hearing loss, tinnitus, and related conditions.

    For plaintiffs or attorneys preparing cases against 3M, it’s imperative to work with experienced attorneys who are familiar with the litigation. Case Works supports law firms working on 3M and other mass tort cases.

    January 2022 3M earplug lawsuit update:
    10th bellwether trial

    So far, the cases against 3M have been split, with plaintiffs winning five of the nine cases and 3M winning four. However, each case the defendant loses comes at a considerable cost. The compensation awarded to victorious plaintiffs has been massive. Moreover, cases continue to be tried against 3M, which is currently on the 10th bellwether trial.

    The 10th bellwether consists of the consolidated cases of Ronald E. Sloan and William Wayman, both army veterans. Sloan claims he suffered tinnitus and hearing loss due to the defective CAEv2 earplugs produced by 3M. Wayman claims that he already had PTSD, but that the earplugs caused tinnitus and worsened his existing mental health condition.

    3M requested a one-week delay because some team members tested positive for COVID-19. The motion was denied since all parties were vaccinated, and the CDC guidelines supported the resumption of court proceedings, including trials. Dr. Mark Packer, who served as an expert eyewitness for the plaintiffs, stated that the 3M earplug defects cause hearing impairment. The decisions made regarding the 10th bellwether will impact future cases brought against 3M.

    On January 31, 2022 Judge Rodgers entered CMO 33 (Transition Order #3). This included a list of cases that will be required to transfer from the administrative docket to the active docket starting immediately. There is a 30 to 60-day deadline to make the transition depending on the number of cases a firm has filed.

    Major milestones in 3M earplug lawsuits

    As stated, 3M has won four of the first nine bellwether trials. In contrast, the plaintiffs have won on five different occasions, with 3M having to pay a total of $73.9 million, including compensatory and punitive damages. Below find a summary of each trial:

    Trial number 9

    3M won the ninth trial against plaintiff Carlos A. Montero, who served in the U.S. Army for 23 years. Montero alleged that 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs caused his hearing loss and tinnitus. However, the Pensacola jury favored 3M in December 2021.

    Trial number 8

    A federal jury awarded $22.5 million to Plaintiff Theodore Finley, a U.S. Army veteran, who blamed CAEv2 earplugs for his hearing loss and tinnitus. This verdict was the largest yet against 3M.

    Trial number 7

    In November 2021, former Army Sgt. Guillermo Camarillorazo prevailed against 3M. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $800,000 and punitive damages of $12.25 million to the plaintiff.

    Trial number 6

    The 6th trial was also heard in November 2021, and it happened to be a win for 3M. A Pensacola jury rejected claims by a Tennessee Army veteran claiming his tinnitus and hearing loss occurred due to defective 3M earplugs.

    Trial number 5

    In October 2021, Michelle Blum’s case against 3M went to trial. She claimed to suffer tinnitus and hearing loss due to defective earplugs worn when she served in the U.S. Army Reserves, Army and National Guard between 1989 and 2009. The jury found in favor of 3M.

    Trial number 4

    The 4th trial was held in September 2021 and the federal jury found in favor of an Army veteran. 3M was ordered to pay $8.2 million to compensate the plaintiff, a U.S. Army vet, for hearing loss and tinnitus caused by defective CAEv2 earplugs.

    Trial number 3

    The 3rd trial was heard in June 2021 and the jury concluded 3M was liable for 62% of the alleged damages and the plaintiff was responsible for 38% of the damages. This reduced the compensation paid by 3M to $1.7 million.

    Trial number 2

    In May 2021, the second hearing found in favor of 3M against a plaintiff alleging the earplugs caused their hearing loss. In the ruling, 3M was found not liable or negligent in selling the earplugs to the armed services.

    Trial number 1

    In April 2021, 3M was ordered to pay $6 million to the plaintiff.

    Primary allegations against
    3M in earplug lawsuits

    Tinnitus is a condition where the patient experiences ringing or noise in one or both ears, even in the absence of noise in the environment. People who work in a noisy environment have a high risk of developing tinnitus. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2.3 million veterans are being compensated for tinnitus while 1.3 million receive disability compensation for hearing loss.

    Tinnitus is the top disability impacting military personnel and veterans. Additionally, 15% of American adults suffer from this disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The VA has partnered with an interdisciplinary team of providers to suggest treatment for tinnitus. There’s no cure, and treatment involves mitigating the constant ringing and whistling sensations in many cases. Many people don’t seek medical assistance for tinnitus. However, some people have difficulty concentrating or sleeping due to their disabilities. This distress can also lead to anxiety or depression.

    Tinnitus rates continue to increase among active military personnel. A study conducted in 2019 by the South Texas VA Health Care System in association with the University of Texas at San Antonio reviewed more than 85,000 medical records. The study revealed tinnitus statistics rose by 300% between 2001 and 2015. According to the study’s results, 6.3 out of every 1000 active-duty personnel had tinnitus in 2015.

    Several factors impacted the likelihood of developing tinnitus, including race, age, sex, marital status, and VA service status. Researchers stressed the need for better care for tinnitus and related mental health issues experienced by veterans and military personnel.

    In 2021, NCRAR researchers studied 900 veterans with tinnitus. They found that those with tinnitus had a higher tendency to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. According to their findings, tinnitus severity is closely associated with adverse mental health symptoms. These findings have a direct impact on the cases filed against 3M.

    The majority of complainants claimed the company already knew about the flaws of the earplugs. They also claimed that 3M failed to disclose the dangers of using the earplugs from 2007 to 2013, causing these devastating injuries. Attorneys Bryan Aylstock and Christopher Seeger gathered evidence that 3M was aware of the defects in the earplugs.

    Background on 3M earplug lawsuits

    3M acquired Aero technologies, the original manufacturer of the CAEv2 earplugs, in 2008. The earplugs are designed to protect the ears without impeding communication. The U.S. military purchased hundreds of thousands of these earplugs between 2003 and 2015. However, in 2016, lawyers filed a lawsuit against 3M on behalf of the United States government. The lawsuit claimed that the company intentionally sold defective earplugs to the military. In the long run, 3M was directed to pay $9 million to the Department of Justice to settle the lawsuit filed by a whistleblower that year.

    In the following years, 3M has faced a rising number of cases. As of December 2021, 3M has more than 300,000 claims filed by both veterans and active service members over the earplug. The case is the largest MDL in U.S. history.

    If you or your firm needs help getting claims prepared for settlement, reach out to Case Works for more info. As a seamless extension of your firm, our team can help you deal with your 3M Docket and prepare claims for settlement.