Veteran's $55M Verdict In Earplugs Lawsuit Slashed To $21.7M

A $55 million award to a U.S. Army veteran over hearing damage in a 3M earplugs lawsuit has been slashed to $21.7 million by a federal jury citing the limit of the reward under Colorado law.

It is the first time that a Pensacola, Fla.-based judge who oversees hundreds of thousands of 3M earplugs' cases has reduced an award.

As per the lawsuit, the plaintiff served in the Army from 1997 to 2017. He used 3M's Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where suffered from permanent hearing damage and tinnitus because of exposure to noise on the battlefield.

In January, the plaintiff, along with another veteran, was awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages. It is one of the biggest jury awards in U.S. history, making it the largest federal mass tort ever.

The judge explained that the award of $15 million in compensatory damages was subject to a Colorado cap on non-economic damages resulting in the amount to reduce to $7.2 million with prejudgment interest. As per the law of Colorado, punitive damages cannot exceed actual damages, eventually reducing the award to $14.5 million.

3M faces claims from more than 290,000 former and active military members alleging that the combat earplugs are defective and cause hearing damage. There were 16 trials scheduled in the litigation, and the verdict came in the 11th trial.

The products were developed by Aearo Technologies, which was bought by 3M in 2008. The plaintiffs allege that the company hid design flaws, misinterpreted tests and failed to provide proper information about the usage of the earplugs. 3M has denied all the allegations.

Earlier, a veteran was awarded $77.5 million, which is the largest verdict for a single person in the earplug lawsuit. Plaintiffs won 10 cases against the company, whereas six cases resulted in 3M's favor.

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