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250K Veterans Settle $6B Earplug Case With 3M

250K Veterans Settle $6B Earplug Case With 3M

250K Veterans Settle $6B Earplug Case With 3M

Introduction

A $6 billion settlement in a series of lawsuits concerning allegations that 3M, a manufacturing giant, supplied earplugs to the military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, resulting in hearing damage, will proceed as nearly 250,000 veterans and service members have agreed to the deal, the company announced recently.

This settlement, one of the largest federal mass tort cases in U.S. history, was initially disclosed in August. However, it was contingent on at least 98% of the veterans who filed claims against 3M accepting the terms. With the deadline for veterans to opt-in now elapsed, the company revealed that 99% of eligible claimants have opted to participate.

3M stated in a news release, "Once all the settlement registrations that have been submitted by claimants have been processed and validated, 3M anticipates that the settlement will have achieved a more than 99.9% participation level."

The lawsuits centered on 3M's Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, distributed to troops between 2003 and 2015. These earplugs were designed to have dual functionality, with one side intended to block all sound and the other side meant to protect against loud noises like explosions while allowing the user to hear soft sounds such as speech.

Nearly 300,000 veterans and service members filed lawsuits alleging design flaws in the earplugs, which allowed them to slip unnoticed into users' ears, permitting damaging noise to enter and resulting in hearing loss or tinnitus. Before the settlement, some cases went to trial with varying outcomes.

Of the over 293,000 claims filed pre-settlement, more than 249,000 claimants registered for participation, while courts dismissed over 41,000 claims, according to 3M. Despite agreeing to the settlement, 3M maintains its denial of liability and asserts that the earplugs were "safe and effective for its intended purpose" when used correctly.

A lead attorney for the plaintiffs expressed satisfaction with the settlement's progression, stating, "We're definitely pleased with the level of support both from service members and veterans, also veterans service organizations, and pleased with the settlement itself," during a brief interview.

While the majority of claimants and veterans groups endorsed the settlement, some veterans voiced concerns that the deal did not adequately address their grievances. While some settlement payments have already been disbursed this year, the majority will be distributed on a rolling basis through 2029. The settlement terms dictate that the exact amount each claimant receives will be based on their medical records.

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