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3M FAULTY EARPLUGS UPDATE: Over 250,000 Veterans to Receive Payments as Part of Settlement

Recently, 3M announced a $6 billion settlement for the Combat Arms Earplug litigation, benefiting over 250,000 veterans. This settlement covers over 99% of the claimants who alleged the company’s faulty military-grade earplugs caused hearing damage.

These earplugs were initially manufactured by Aearo Technologies before 3M acquired the company in 2008 and were distributed from 1999 to 2015. They were widely used by troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations.

After a prolonged legal battle, the Multi-District Litigation (MDL) lawsuit against 3M will cease all ongoing litigation if at least 98% of the claimants agree to the proposed $6 billion settlement.

Veterans who are part of the settlement will start receiving payments up until 2029. The exact compensatory amounts will vary based on the severity of each veteran’s hearing damage, but the total disbursements from 3M will be capped at $6 billion.

Based in Minnesota, 3M has maintained that its earplugs are safe and effective and has not admitted to any defects.

3M Earplug Lawsuit Timeline

  • June 2021: 3M loses third trial in huge military earplug mass tort: “A federal jury found that 3M Co failed to provide adequate safety warnings for its combat earplugs and that a U.S. Army veteran who said he developed tinnitus after using them sustained $1.7 million in damages, the second such verdict against the company.”
  • April 2021: 3M hit with $6 m punitive damages by U.S. jury in first combat earplug trial: “3M Co was found liable on Friday for hearing damage suffered by three U.S. military veterans. The jury awarded each of the plaintiffs $2.1 million in punitive damages and a total of $830,500 in compensatory damages for their medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering.”
  • August 2022: The court allowed the case against 3M to proceed, despite the bankruptcy protection filed by its subsidiary Aearo, which manufactured the earplugs. 3M’s filing for bankruptcy protection was an attempt to protect itself from the claims. After the denial of bankruptcy protection, the Judge urged 3M to participate in settlement talks, which began in September 2022. However, 3M appealed the bankruptcy decision.
  • October 2022: The plaintiffs filed a motion asking the Court to hold 3M solely liable for the injuries caused by its earplugs, meaning Aearo’s bankruptcy would not impact the case. The Court granted this motion but allowed 3M to appeal it.
  • December 2022: The Court imposed sanctions on 3M for its “brazen abuse of the litigation process.” It was found that 3M had litigated the case for four years without indicating that its subsidiary, Aearo, was to blame. Later, it shifted the blame to Aearo once the subsidiary declared bankruptcy. As a result, the judge denied 3M’s attempt to handle the claims in bankruptcy court, allowing the plaintiffs to continue suing 3M directly.
  • May 2023: After considering Aearo’s bankruptcy as the best way to resolve the claims, the Court ordered 3M CEO Michael Roman to attend mediation in Pensacola. Judge Casey Rodgers wanted 3M leadership, including Roman, to “listen and engage directly with the mediators” to make progress towards a resolution.
  • August 29, 2023: The two sides agreed to a $6.01 billion settlement amount.
  • Post-Settlement: After the settlement was announced, several veterans were targeted by scammers attempting to steal their identities. The scammers pretended to be the settlement administrator and asked for social security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal information. The scam attempts were so widespread that Judge Rodgers issued a warning order to inform claimants about the scam.