A federal jury has awarded $8.2 million in an ongoing series of bellwether trials to a U.S. military veteran who suffered hearing loss and tinnitus because of using 3M military earplugs.
As per the court documents, the veteran filed a tinnitus and hearing loss lawsuit against 3M and Aearo in January 2020. The jury awarded the verdict in the veteran's favor by concluding that 3M failed to warn the users about the defective design of the earplugs and implementing fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment of the product.
More than 250,000 veterans are awaiting settlement from 3M Company and its Aearo Technologies subsidiary over their claims of defective 3M earplugs. The military service members used the earplugs while in service between 2003 and 2015. The company will face more than a half-dozen bellwether claims involving 3M earplugs that will go before juries between November 2021 and February 2022.
The earplugs had a reversible design that blocked all the sound when inserted in one way and would provide selective hearing of spoken commands by reducing the loud impulse sounds when inserted in another way. However, the plaintiffs argued that the earplugs are defectively designed, as they would not fit the ear canal and eventually fell out.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers is overseeing the 3M earplugs federal MDL in the Northern District of Florida, where all the lawsuits are centralized for a coordinated discovery of certain evidence and testimony.
Earlier, the U.S. District Judge has agreed to consolidate three different claims of 3M Combat Arms earplug lawsuits into one trial, which will begin in January 2022 before a federal jury.
The current consolidated trial, set to begin in January 2022, is similar to the first bellwether trial of combat arms earplugs held in April 2021, where three military veterans were awarded $7.1 million. The company provided defective earplugs to the service members, which resulted in the court's ruling against it. The second trial was ruled in favor of 3M in May 2021, and the third trial resulted in a $1.7 million verdict against the manufacturer.
Each of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit claims 3M was aware of the defective design of the earplugs but still sold it to the U.S. government without fair guidelines about the usage of the products. The earplugs could not seal the ear canal effectively and fall out from the service members' ears.
These bellwether trials will prevent repetitive findings and discussions in the large number of 3M lawsuits that are about to go before the federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers has already scheduled two bellwether trials that will go before separate juries in September and October 2021 before the current trial, including the three veterans.
Currently, 3M faces more than 230,000 product liability lawsuits with similar allegations that the earplugs were defective and resulted in hearing loss, tinnitus, and other ear problems to the U.S. service members. All the 3M lawsuits are consolidated before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers as a part of an MDL in the Northern District of Florida.