3M Spends More Than $450M Over Earplugs Lawsuits

According to court papers, 3M Co. has spent more than $450 million on defence as it fights charges that faulty earplugs given to the US military impaired troops' hearing.

The business, which has lost a succession of test trials over the earplugs, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July in the hopes of containing the estimated $7 billion litigation over the device. In a bankruptcy court filing last month, 3M's attorneys requested more than $19 million in fees and charges for work on the case from July to October, bringing the total to $366 million.

According to court records, the corporation also anticipated in July that it would spend another $100 million on attorneys and legal fees defending the earplug claims for the remainder of 2022, increasing its possible total bill to almost $466 million.

According to a legal expert at the University of Richmond who teaches about mass-tort lawsuits, the corporation must come up with an acceptable settlement agreement for these claims to end. He went on to say that $466 million is a lot of money to spend on attorneys and defence expenditures, not to mention the brand damage the firm is creating with all of these trial defeats.

The fee figure is just the latest twist in the almost four-year legal saga involving 3M's earplugs. More than a dozen juries decided that the faulty goods were responsible for the veterans' hearing loss and ordered the manufacturer to pay more than $300 million in damages. In addition, 3M has received six defense verdicts in so-called test trials. A bankruptcy judge determined that the company's bankruptcy filing could not be used to halt the earplug trials. More than 200,000 veterans have claimed that the defective earplugs caused them harm.

3M representatives did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the legal-fee total in the earplug case.

3M filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Indianapolis with the goal of facilitating faster and cheaper earplug litigation settlements. Other firms facing mass-tort lawsuits, such as Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma LP, are using similar bankruptcy filings to cope with their legal troubles rather than state and federal court trials and settlements.

However, the court handling the earplug case consolidation in Florida last month determined that 3M cannot move financial responsibility for the damage judgements and other obligations to its Aearo company in bankruptcy. 3M has launched mediation attempts in both the Florida and Indiana bankruptcy cases with the goal of reaching out-of-court agreements.

According to the bankruptcy documents, 3M spent around $47.77 million on attorneys' fees and legal expenditures in the first quarter of last year and approximately $74.5 million in the second quarter. According to the petition, that amounted to nearly $4.7 million spent every week. According to the statement, 3M also expects to pay approximately $3.8 million each week in legal expenses for the remainder of 2022.

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