A second bellwether trial of 3M Combat Arms earplugs commenced on May 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida post the earlier $7.1 million verdict in the first bellwether trial.
Currently, 3M faces more than 230,000 product liability claims in the federal court system. All the claims are from the military veterans who served between 2003 and 2015. The veterans claim that the manufacturing defect of 3M earplugs resulted in hearing damage for them.
The reversible design of the earplugs blocked all sound when inserted one way and provided selective filtering when reversed. However, veterans alleged that they developed tinnitus, hearing loss, and other ear damage due to the defective design of the product that misfits the ear canal.
Earlier, Judge Rodgers issued a pretrial order which allocated 10 business days for the trial, but the defendants asked for additional time to present their side of the case.
The first bellwether trial ended last month, which ended with a $7.1 million verdict for three veterans. On June 7, the third 3M bellwether trial will begin.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers is overlooking the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established in the Northern District of Florida for coordinated discovery and proceedings.
The outcomes of these bellwether trials will not bind to other cases and if 3M fails to defend itself, it could face heavy penalties to resolve the tens of thousands of individual cases across the nation.
Earlier, 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.
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 Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) was manufactured by Aearo Technologies, Inc. before being taken over by 3M in 2008. The dual-ended 3M CAEv2 combat earplugs served as a standard form of military hearing protection in foreign conflicts for more than a decade, from 2002 to 2016.
The 3M military earplugs are made of green and yellow with a double-ended design. The green end is inserted to block all sound, and insertion of the yellow end reduces the sound of gunfire and explosives but still allowed the service personnel to be part of a conversation.