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3M Combat Earplug Lawsuits

About 3M® Combat Earplugs

In recent years, there have been a number of lawsuits filed against the Minnesota-based company 3M®. These lawsuits all share one common thread: they allege that 3M®’s combat earplugs, which were designed for use by the military, are defective and have caused serious hearing damage in those who have used them. 

To date, more than 288,000 lawsuits have been filed against 3M®. The vast majority of 3M earplug lawsuits have been consolidated perhaps into the largest class action in the history of all MDLs. The venue is the Northern District of Florida whose presiding jurist is Judge Masico.  

The Plaintiffs’ Claims

The plaintiffs in these cases allege that 3M® knew or should have known that its combat earplugs were defective. They further allege that the company failed to warn users about the risks associated with using the earplugs. As a result of these defects, plaintiffs allege that they have suffered hearing damage, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), and other injuries. 

3M’s Defense

3M has denied all of the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that its earplugs are safe and effective when used as directed. The company has also pointed to the fact that it sold its combat earplug business to another company in 2015 as evidence that it did not believe there were any problems with the earplugs. In addition to its efforts to have the lawsuits dismissed outright, 3M has also sought to limit the scope of the litigation by arguing that certain claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata (or “claim preclusion”). This argument has also been unsuccessful; in February 2020, Judge Mascio issued an order denying 3M’s motion for summary judgment on this issue. 

The MDL Process

An MDL is a type of lawsuit in which multiple plaintiffs with similar claims are brought together in one court for efficiency purposes. MDLs are overseen by one judge, who presides over all aspects of the litigation. This includes pretrial matters such as case management orders and discovery procedures. Once discovery is completed, the judge may hold bellwether trials. A bellwether trial is a test trial in which both sides present their best evidence and arguments to a jury. The verdict in a bellwether trial can help the parties gauge how juries are likely to rule on similar claims in other cases within the MDL. 

There have been 16 bellwether trials for the 3M® combat earplugs MDL, with results as follows:

Plaintiffs — Date — Results

1) Hacker / Estes / Keefer — May 2021 — Award of $7,100,000 to Plaintiff

2) McCombs — May 2021 — Defense Verdict

3)Baker — June 2021 — Award of $1,100,000 to Plaintiff

4)Atkins — Sept 2021 — Award of $8,200,000 to Plaintiff

5) Blum — Oct 2021 — Defense Verdict

6) Palanki — Nov 2021 — Defense Verdict

7) Camarillorazo — Nov 2021 — Award of $13,062,320 to Plaintiff

8) Finley — Nov 2021 — Award of $22,500,000 to Plaintiff

9) Montero — Dec 2021 — Defense Verdict

10) Stelling — Dec 2021 — Defense Verdict

11) Sloan / Wayman — Jan 2022 — Award of $110,000,000 to Plaintiff

12) Wilkerson — Mar 2022 — Award of $8,000,000 to Plaintiff

13) Vilsmeyer — Mar 2022 — Award of $50,000,000 to Plaintiff

14) Kelley — April 2022 — Defense Verdict

15) Vaughn — April 2022 — Award of $2,200,000 to Plaintiff

16) Beal — May 2022 — Award of $77,000,000 to Plaintiff

Meanwhile, settlement negotiations between 3M® and the plaintiffs continue behind closed doors. But if these negotiations are unsuccessful, even more bellwether trials are likely to be scheduled in an attempt to reach a resolution for all of the cases involved in this MDL. 

In Brief

While each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits, it is clear from the current status of litigation against 3M® that many people have been seriously injured by these defective earplugs—and they are seeking compensation for their injuries through the legal system.

We recommend that individuals injured by 3M® combat earplugs complete our settlement form, and we can connect you with a leading, experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss legal options.