Mark Roman | September 20, 2022 | Product Liability
Thousands of veterans and servicemembers have experienced severe and devastating hearing loss and injuries because of defective combat earplugs. They have sued the manufacturer for damages caused by the defective 3M combat earplugs. So far, jury verdicts have included several multi-million dollar awards.
What Is the 3M Combat Earplug Multidistrict Litigation?
The lawsuits against 3M for its combat earplugs are not part of a class action lawsuit. Instead, the cases are individual and are being tried separately, even though they are part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) action.
The 3M Corp. MDL is being managed and heard by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Judge M. Casey Rodgers presides over the MDL for the defective earplug lawsuits.
The benefits of consolidating the cases for pre-trial and discovery include saving time and expenses. The cases are combined for the attorneys to participate in discovery and pre-trial motions. However, each case is heard by a different jury and decided on the merits and facts of the individual lawsuit.
Why Are Veterans and Servicemembers Filing Defective Combat Earplug Lawsuits?
Servicemembers used the 3M combat earplugs from 2003 through 2015. They were used in combat zones, training, and other activities.
The manufacturer claimed that the unique design of the earplugs could block loud noises from combat and other sources. At the same time, the design of the earplugs allowed people to hear verbal directions and conversation.
However, plaintiffs allege in their lawsuits that the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs did not filter out the loud noises. Instead, a defect in the design allowed loud noises to enter the ear canal. The result was severe injuries and hearing loss.
The lawsuits allege that 3M knew about the defect in the earplugs but did nothing to correct the flaw or provide adequate warning to the military. Therefore, servicemembers using the earplugs sustained severe and permanent hearing loss.
Signs of Service-Related Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Hearing loss is a common reason veterans file disability claims. The Veterans Administration reports that tinnitus claims by veterans total more than 2.3 million. In addition, over 1.3 million veterans filed disability claims for service-related hearing loss.
The symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus caused by service-related or combat conditions can include:
- Muffled sounds
- Hypersensitivity to some sounds
- Problems hearing conversations, television, and radio
- A buzzing or ringing in the ears
- The need to turn up the volume for cell phones, televisions, tablets, radios, and other devices
- The need to ask other people to speak louder
- Having a “full” sensation in one or both ears
- Problems concentrating or focusing on tasks
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds
If you experience any of the symptoms of tinnitus or hearing loss, seek medical treatment immediately. Service members may want to talk with a lawyer about a disability claim. Contact a New Port Richey product liability lawyer for a free consultation if you used the combat earplugs.
What Types of Damages Could a Servicemember Receive in a Defective Earplug Claim?
Product liability lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim.
A plaintiff can receive compensation for their economic and non-economic damages, including:
- The cost of medical treatment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income and benefits
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Mental anguish
There could be other damages depending on the specifics of the case. Product liability claims may also result in punitive damages, which “punish” a manufacturer or other party for gross negligence or intentional conduct.
What Is the Status of the 3M Combat Earplug Lawsuits?
Bellwether trials are the initial trials held in a multi-district litigation action and are believed to indicate the outcome of future trials. Over a dozen trials have been held in the 3M combat earplug litigation.
3M has won several of the lawsuits. However, plaintiffs have won the majority of them. Jury verdicts for plaintiffs range from just over $1 million to more than $110 million.
In July 2022, the parties continued to engage in mediation to try to settle the pending lawsuits. However, on July 26, 2022, 3M announced that its subsidiary (Aearo Technologies) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Aearo Technologies manufactured the combat earplugs. 3M said it would seek to resolve the remaining earplug claims through the bankruptcy filing.
However, a ruling on August 27, 2022, stated that the bankruptcy case by Aearo should have no bearing on the pending lawsuits against 3M. The parties were ordered to participate in another settlement mediation in early September. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, more cases will proceed to trial.
If you used combat earplugs and sustained hearing loss or ear damage, you should consult a lawyer immediately about your options for filing a claim against 3M for damages.
Contact the Product Liability Law Firm Of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers To Get The Help Your Deserve
If you need help with your injury case or you want to learn more information, please call the product liability law firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (727) 815-8442 or visit the nearest location to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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