The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Combat Arms Earplug complaints filed in federal courts nationwide has ordered the CEO of 3M Company to attend settlement negotiations aimed at settling hundreds of thousands of claims of hearing impairment since negotiations have reached a "critical juncture."
Currently, more than 230,000 American veterans are suing 3M Company and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies over claims that they suffered permanent hearing loss after using Combat Arms Earplugs while serving in the military, which was a standard issue before all deployments between 2003 and 2015.
Plaintiffs contend that 3M supplied the earplugs to the American government while aware of a design flaw that prevented military members from having proper ear protection during combat and training drills. As a result, veterans look for monetary settlements and recompense for hearing loss they have been dealing with since their time in the military.
Despite the fact that early bellwether trials resulted in millions of dollars in damage awards from juries, 3M earplug settlement discussions have been unable to provide an offer that veterans would accept as just compensation to settle a sizable number of claims, and the scope of the case has continued to grow.
All claims have been consolidated for the past three and a half years as part of an MDL or multidistrict lawsuit before U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of Florida due to common factual and legal issues addressed in the action.
3M has challenged each of the preliminary judgements in an effort to defend the safety of the earplugs. Even though the multi-billion parent company is well-funded and directly benefited from the earplugs, 3M scuttled settlement talks by controversially declaring its Aearo Technologies subsidiary bankrupt and attempting to force the litigation through the U.S. bankruptcy court. This was done even after it became clear that it was unable to convincingly persuade juries that the earplugs were not to blame for the hearing loss suffered by nearly a dozen plaintiffs.