A federal jury in Florida has issued an order indicating that 3M will pay $ $7.1 million in damages to three military veterans who suffered from hearing loss due to the defective earplugs that the company manufactured.
The trial was identified as a “bellwether” among the 300,000 lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system against 3M.
If 3M fails to negotiate hearing loss settlements for military service members, the company will face massive liability from the veterans who used 3M earplugs as standard equipment between 2003 and 2015. The verdict is expected to send shock waves through the financial industry, even though the jury award is yet to be declared.
The earplugs were designed to block all sound when inserted one way and reduce loud impulse sounds while allowing users to hear spoken commands when reversed. The litigations against the company allege that the earplugs are defective and did not seal the ear canal, resulting in permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and other ear damage to the military veterans.
3M attempted multiple mid-trials to prevent the jury from deliberating a quick verdict in the lawsuit which was rejected by the jury. The jury awarded $2.1 million to each plaintiff in punitive damages. The plaintiffs were even awarded compensatory damages based on medical bills, pain, and suffering.
The company will face two additional trials, which are set to begin on May 17 and June 7. The trials involve one veteran each for the claims against 3M. However, the outcomes of the trials will not be forced on other plaintiffs in the litigation.
3M is expected to face thousands of individual trials in courts nationwide in the coming years. Recently, Bayer agreed to pay $10 billion to settle Roundup lawsuits, which was one of the largest settlements in U.S. history. However, considering the large number of claims faced by 3M, it is expected that the manufacturer will pay more damages as compared to Bayer.
All the 3M lawsuits are consolidated in federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida for common discovery and pretrial procedures.