3M Company has asked a federal judge to require thousands of service members filing defective earplug lawsuits to pay out massive filing fees.
A huge number of defective earplug lawsuits have been brought against 3M as part of major multidistrict litigation, with victims claiming that military-issue earplugs damaged their hearing.
But according to a Reuters news report, Minnesota-based 3M has now filed a motion in a Florida federal court. It argues that allowing plaintiffs to bring forth “unvetted” claims in an administrative docket by submitting short forms without the typical filing fee of $402 per case has caused the MDL to “explode” into the largest in history. The company wants victims to be forced to pay the fees.
Explosion of Defective Earplug Lawsuits
This filing comes after plaintiffs won verdicts totaling about $200 million over eight bellwether trials. Reuters reports that as of March 16, more than 288,000 actions were pending in the MDL before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, more than double the number of actions currently pending in all other MDLs combined.
3M said in its motion that this unprecedented number of cases stemmed from Casey’s decision to allow plaintiffs to bring claims on an administrative docket without fees, disclosures, or allegations about where and when the plaintiff used the earplugs. 3M has argued that the military was responsible for the earplugs’ design. The plaintiffs’ state law claims were preempted because of 3M’s role as a federal contractor following government mandates.
Failure to Warn of Defects
The plaintiffs in these cases, many of whom are U.S. service members, have alleged that 3M knew the earplugs were faulty but failed to warn them of those problems. The company ceased sales of the earplugs in 2015 but has continued to tell consumers that the product is safe and effective. The defective earplug lawsuits allege that the first fault in the earplugs was discovered in 2000 but that Aearo, which 3 M later acquired, falsified test results so the products continued to be sold to the military for more than a decade.
The combat earplugs were marketed and advertised as being dual-ended. This means that if you insert one end in your ears, you block out all noise. But, if you insert the other end, you are supposed to be protected from loud blasts while still being able to hear commands and conversations. The lawsuits say the earplugs not only had a flange that was loose but were also not long enough to fully protect the ear from explosions and gunfire.
It is outrageous that 3M has filed a motion demanding that these service members who have honorably fought for their country, risking their lives, pay these fees when their products have caused catastrophic damage. Many of these victims have suffered partial or total loss of hearing, which has significantly affected their quality of life. As such, they should be able to seek justice by filing defective earplug lawsuits against the negligent manufacturers.
As product defect lawyers, we are determined to secure justice and fair compensation for men and women in our armed forces who have been affected by these defective earplugs.