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3M Will Pay $6 Billion in a Settlement of the US Military Earplug Lawsuits


Recently, 3M agreed to pay $6.01 billion to settle lawsuits that cover about 240,000 military veterans and service members who sued due to hearing loss they alleged was the result of the manufacturers’ Combat Arms earplugs. Earlier this year, 3M tried to move the lawsuits into bankruptcy court to avoid being held liable for the full scope of damages; the deal failed.

Aearo Technologies made the Combat Arms earplugs, which the military used to train service members, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, from 2003-2015. 3M bought Aearo. When they sued, the plaintiffs alleged that the manufacturer had concealed design flaws, altered test results, and failed to provide proper instructions for the earplugs, and that, as a result they suffered hearing loss, tinnitus and other hearing damage. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had used their own lab to test the earplugs and used improper testing procedures that skewed the results of a mandatory test, in order to get a different Noise Reduction Rating label than it should have gotten.

In 2019, the 3M lawsuits were consolidated before a federal judge in Florida. Aearo filed for bankruptcy in 2022, but the bankruptcy judge dismissed it on the grounds that Aearo was financially healthy and therefore shouldn’t pursue bankruptcy. In the course of the 3M litigation, 16 earplug cases went to trial. The manufacturer lost 10 cases, and around $265 million was awarded to the plaintiffs. The verdicts are included as part of the $6.01 billion settlement.

3M has faced significant legal problems. In 2018, it agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the claim that it knowingly sold the ear plugs that are the subject of the current litigation to the United States military without disclosing defects. Two months ago 3M announced a possible $10.3 billion deal with public water systems around the country to resolve water pollution claims involving forever chemicals. However, this settlement has yet to be approved. More than 20 states have pushed back.

In offering the recent historic settlement in the earplug cases, 3M did not admit liability for the harms set forth by the plaintiffs and continues to claim these earplugs are safe. The settlement monies will go towards eligible claimants, roughly 240,000 people. However, 3M can walk away from the settlement if fewer than 98% of eligible claimants take part. The settlement is to be paid from 2023-2029. $1 billion of that will be paid out as 3M stock. Certain analysts estimated that the manufacturer’s liability from these lawsuits had been as high as $10 billion.

Product liability litigation such as the litigation pursued against 3M can involve manufacturing, design or marketing defects. Generally, marketing defects involve failure to warn and provision of improper instructions. When our attorneys are able to establish a manufacturer’s liability in a product liability lawsuit, we may be able to recover compensatory damages, which are damages that are intended to put you back in the same position you would have been in had the defendant not put the product into the market.

Moll Law Group Supports the Settlement and Will Be Submitting Claims For All of Our Clients

Moll Law Group has represented numerous clients in litigation against 3M for years. There is an enormous amount of work in the weeks and months ahead to submit claims and all supporting documents. If you have any questions regarding the terms of the settlement and timing, please contact the trustworthy Chicago product liability lawyers of Moll Law Group by completing our online form or call us at 312.462.1700

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