A jury in Pensacola, Florida, has ordered 3M to pay $77.5 million to a U.S. Army veteran that says he has suffered hearing damage from the company’s defective military earplugs. According to a news report, this verdict for James Beal is the largest yet for an individual in the litigation over earplugs, which as of May 16 included more than 290,000 claims in the Pensacola court. This is by far the largest mass tort litigation in U.S. history.
Defective Military Earplugs
Beal’s was the last of an initial set of 16 trials held to test the strength of the plaintiff’s claims and facilitate settlement talks. Out of these bellwether trials – which are essentially test cases intended to try a widely contested issue – plaintiffs prevailed in 10, winning nearly $300 million in compensation. Juries took 3M’s side in six cases. Beal served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2009 and in the Army Reserves until 2011. He said he wore 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 while using a variety of weapons. As a result, he said, he suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus. Aearo Technologies, which 3M bought in 2008, developed the earplugs, which were issued to military service members between 2003 and 2015. Plaintiffs have alleged that the company concealed design flaws
, fudged test results, and failed to provide instructions for the proper use of the earplugs. According to plaintiffs in many of these lawsuits, the faulty 3M earplugs were used by soldiers in combat and in training missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and here within the U.S. While 3M acquired the earplugs when it bought Aearo in 2008, it stopped selling these products in 2015. The dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were designed with one side to block all noise and the other to let through voice commands. The earplugs were supposed to block loud, damaging noises such as those from explosives. But, that didn’t happen. During these trials, evidence showed that Aearo knew years ago that one of the flaps in the earplug was too short and could be problematic when it came to how it fits. Veterans alleged that Aearo and later 3M dialed to warn service members about the findings of its own test results that these earplugs were not good enough to protect soldiers from harmful noises. As a result, many suffered partial or total hearing loss or effects such as tinnitus.
Product Liability Issues
When a product is defectively designed, defectively manufactured, or does not work as intended, the manufacturer and/or distributor of the products can be held liable for the injuries, damages, and losses caused. In such cases, victims may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. If you or a loved one has been affected by these 3M/Aearo earplugs or other defective products, please contact an experienced product defect lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights. Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/international-business/us-business/article-3m-ordered-to-pay-775-million-to-veteran-in-latest-earplug-trial/