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3M Earplugs Lawsuit Update

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Service Members With Hearing Loss or Tinnitus Could Be Eligible For Compensation

The 3M Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) issued to military personnel between 2003 and 2015 may have caused thousands of service members to suffer hearing damage. Due to poor design, the earplugs did not provide an adequate seal to protect the ear canal. 3M failed to disclose the problem despite internal tests showing the product was defective.

silhouettes of army soldiers in the fog against a sunset Defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs

Service members frequently experience high noise levels in training and on the battlefield. It’s not surprising that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports over 1.3 million military veterans currently receive disability compensation for hearing loss and approximately 2.3 million receive compensation for tinnitus. Military members are subject to a significant amount of noise that exceeds safe decibel levels. However, military personnel have little option but to remain in noisy environments to complete specific tasks and missions. Effective hearing protection devices are crucial in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.

3M claimed their Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs could offer military personnel hearing protection that didn’t interfere with communication and coordination between troops. One end of the earplug would mitigate all noise, while the other would allow soldiers to hear crucial commands. However, the earplugs failed to selectively block noise, leaving service members vulnerable in extremely loud environments. As a result, service members did not receive the promised benefits, and now many are suffering from it.

3M neglected to inform the U.S. government that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were faulty, even though they were aware of the issue. As a result, the defect may have caused military personnel partial or complete hearing loss. Therefore, our law firm believes 3M should be held accountable and compensate veterans and service members suffering from hearing issues and tinnitus after using 3M’s defective earplugs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs sued the 3M Company because it believed 3M was at fault for supplying unsafe earplugs for service members in the military. 3M’s executives decided to lie about the product they were offering to our troops so they could land a multi-million-dollar deal with the U.S. Government. Now, thousands of lives have been affected by their negligence.

After this lawsuit, many active duty service members and veterans filed defective product claims against 3M. As a result, these cases have been given multidistrict litigation (MDL) status in the Northern District of Florida.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have a 3M Earplug Case?

If you or a loved one has permanent hearing damage after using Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs made by 3M during military service, contact the experienced product liability lawyers at Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A Injury Lawyers to learn more about possible earplug litigation claims. You might be entitled to monetary compensation for your hearing injuries.

3M Earplug Lawsuit Latest Updates  

The recent large amounts awarded to plaintiffs in 3M earplug lawsuits mark three consecutive verdicts that were more than $50 million. Other bellwether trials are still ongoing.

March 25, 2022: Luke Vilsmeyer, an army veteran who claimed 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 caused him to have hearing loss and tinnitus, was awarded $50 million by a federal jury in Pensacola, Florida. This verdict is the second-largest award related to earplugs produced by 3M.

Vilsmeyer served in the Army from 1999 to 2020, as a howitzer gunner and a Green Beret. He used 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 from 2006 to 2017.

Additionally, a Tallahassee jury has recently awarded $8 million in compensatory damages to Steven Wilkerson. Wilkerson used 3M earplugs during training and combat while serving in the US Army National Guard and subsequently developed tinnitus and hearing loss.

There have been ten bellwether trials. Juries awarded nine out of the 13 plaintiffs damages, while the remaining four have lost at trial. Plaintiffs have won a total of $160 million. These results are very encouraging for plaintiffs. 

January 27, 2022: A federal jury in Pensacola, Florida, awarded $110 million to army veterans Ronald Sloan and William Wayman, who claimed 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs Version 2 caused them to have tinnitus and hearing loss. This verdict is the largest award so far in a 3M earplugs case

Both Sloan and Wayman were awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages. Each won more than the previously largest verdict of $22.5 million.

December 21, 2021: The 9th bellwether trial in the 3M earplug lawsuit concluded with a defense verdict last week. The jury determined that Carlos Montero did not prove that 3M’s earplugs were to blame for his hearing loss and gave a verdict in favor of the defense.

This victory for 3M in the earplugs lawsuits is only a week after 3Ms most significant loss, with a $22.5 million verdict awarded in the Finley trial.

December 10, 2021: Plaintiff Theodore Finley received a $22.5 million verdict in Florida. The jury awarded Finley $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages.  

Finley was on active duty in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2014 and used 3M earplugs while exposed to noise from mortars, machine guns, RPGs, mechanized vehicles, and aircraft. He was seeking damages for hearing loss and tinnitus caused by combat earplugs sold by 3M. This latest verdict surpasses seven previous rulings, including a $13 million verdict awarded by jurors to a U.S. Army sergeant last month.

The punitive damages resulted from the jury’s conclusion that 3M committed fraud “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This ruling is an exceptionally high threshold for plaintiffs to reach and demonstrates how outraged the jury was by 3M’s actions.   

November 2021: A jury awards plaintiff Camarillorazo $816,395 in compensatory damages and $12.245 million in punitive damages for a total award of over $13 million. The largest 3M earplug lawsuit verdict at the time.

However, another case involving the plaintiff Palanki ended with a defense verdict in favor of 3M.

Plaintiffs have now won six out of nine 3M earplug lawsuits. In the six victories for plaintiffs, the average award from the jury is over $5 million.

For another case, the jury found in favor of the 3M. The plaintiff, Michelle Blum, could not prove 3M was liable for hearing damage she suffered while wearing 3M’s earplugs in the Army.

The ruling in favor of the defense in the Blum case was not surprising. Defense counsel selected Blum’s case as a bellwether trial because she had a weak case with questions about whether she had hearing issues. The plaintiff’s lawyers attempted to exit the case three months before the trial. Blum’s attorneys knew her case would be difficult to win.

October 2021: The 8th Circuit denied 3M’s request to keep all earplug lawsuits in federal court. 3M tried to claim that because they designed the CAEv2 earplugs for military purposes, federal courts had exclusive jurisdiction over all earplug lawsuits.

The court stated that 3M did not offer enough evidence to show that it was “acting under” a federal agency regarding the earplug’s warning and instructions. Employees who got earplugs in the commercial market may continue to pursue their claims in state court, according to the verdict. However, the court found that lawsuits filed by defense contractors should proceed in federal court.

June 2021: A Florida jury awarded $1.7 million to Lloyd Baker; however, they found Baker 38 percent at fault. So the actual award was $1.1 million. The 3M earplug case verdict is a big win for plaintiffs seeking compensation in these lawsuits. The odds have shifted in favor of victims seeking 3M hearing damage compensation. The result informs 3M that these hearing loss cases are important and that an average settlement of $10,000 will not be enough to settle them.

June 2021: The second 3M earplug trial was a tinnitus case that ended with a win for the defense, 3M.

April 2021: Three plaintiffs in 3M cases were awarded $7.1 million by a federal jury in Florida. The jury awarded $2.1 million in punitive damages for each victim. This verdict shows the jury was angry at 3M’s conduct and should impact the settlement amounts in the 3M earplug lawsuit. After a five-week trial, we hope this verdict will have a game-changing effect on the individual settlement compensation payouts in these hearing loss claims.

July 2018: 3M agreed to pay the Department of Justice $9.1 million to settle claims that the company sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military. That settlement stemmed from two former 3M employees filing a whistleblower lawsuit.

3M Earplug Lawsuit FAQs

What Does a $22.5 Million Payout Mean For Other Combat Arms Earplug Cases?

A $22.5 million payout means the price to settle a 3M military earplug claim could increase. Veterans who might have taken a small settlement amount before seeing all these verdicts might reconsider. Hopefully, Finley’s $22.5 million award will encourage 3M to start getting serious about offering mass tort settlement compensation payouts to compensate these soldiers who suffered hearing damage after using a 3M earplug.

What Is a Bellwether Trial?

If you are following the 3M earplug lawsuits, you might hear the term bellwether trial. A bellwether trial is a sample trial that provides everyone involved an idea of other probable outcomes. Bellwether trials only occur in mass tort multidistrict litigation (MDL).

When a defective product causes thousands of individuals to suffer similar injuries, it is known as mass tort litigation. When this happens, thousands of individuals all over the country sue the same defendant (or several defendants) around the same time. The outcomes of Bellwether trials reveal patterns in litigation and can assist plaintiffs and defendants in deciding how to proceed with their mass tort claim.

How Are Cases Selected to Serve as Bellwether Cases?

Bellwether trials include a smaller subset from a large group of plaintiffs. The legal issues of those in this subset are a good representation of the group. Sometimes there are multiple bellwethers for more extensive cases, like the 3M Earplug Lawsuit. The first trials serve as a benchmark and establish a precedent.

Bellwether trials are sample cases in large mass tort litigation involving thousands of plaintiffs. When thousands of individual plaintiffs have similar claims, it’s impossible to take every case to trial. So instead, a small number of test cases are used to give those involved in the lawsuit a clear picture of the settlement compensation payments that victims should get.

Who Qualifies For the 3M Earplug Lawsuits?

You may be eligible for the 3M earplug lawsuit if you were issued and used 3M defective earplugs while serving in the United States military between 2003 – 2015 and subsequently developed any hearing loss or damage. This hearing damage includes complete or partial hearing loss in one or both ears, as well as tinnitus.

 

image of military troops in battle

Which Military Personnel and Veterans Are Most Likely Affected?

3M sold the Combat Arms earplugs to all four branches of the U.S. military. To be included in the lawsuit, potential plaintiffs need to have a diagnosis from a doctor of tinnitus or hearing loss resulting in an impairment rating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, you must have served between 2003 and 2015. The 3M dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs may have caused thousands of soldiers to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus.

If you’re a service member or veteran experiencing hearing impairment, you may be able to file a lawsuit against 3M. Contact our experienced defective products lawyers to learn more about your legal options.

How Are 3M Earplugs Defective?

The 3M earplugs lawsuit claims that, due to poor design, the earplugs did not stay in place. Therefore, military members and veterans heard excessive noises without any protection.

This defective product caused many of them to suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance loss which can be incredibly debilitating.

What Are the Legal Options for Service Members and Veterans?

If you’re a service member or veteran who has suffered from hearing loss after being issued 3M Combat Arms military earplugs, you may be able to file a lawsuit against 3M. Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A. Injury Lawyers have experience in mass tort claims. Contact us to learn more about your legal options.

Can I File a Lawsuit If I Receive Veterans Disability For Hearing Loss?

Yes, your government’s veteran benefits have nothing to do with the damage that a careless manufacturer may cause you. Living with permanent hearing loss or damage can be painful and unpleasant and reduce your quality of life. You may be entitled to compensation for your hearing injury caused by defective earplugs.

What If I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

At Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A., there is no such thing as someone who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Our law firm operates on a contingency-fee-basis, which means we will only get paid if you win. There is no upfront cost and no charge for any expenses or fees during the case at our firm. Since we are contingency fee lawyers, there’s no reason to believe you cannot afford legal representation.

What Symptoms Do Former 3M Earplug Users Experience?

The hearing damage caused by the defective 3M earplugs has manifested in 3 main ways among victims:

  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing Loss
  • Loss of Balance

While some cases are less severe than others, hearing loss can disrupt someone’s life. For example, in some cases, auditory processing issues can make it difficult to hold conversations or listen to instructions on the job.

Tinnitus can also interfere with communications, as many patients find the noise extremely distracting.

Partial or total hearing loss necessitates constant modifications and healthcare for individuals, making daily life more difficult. Therefore, there’s a strong case for compensation due to medical bills and suffering significant hearing loss causes.

What is Tinnitus?

Patients with tinnitus hear “phantom” sounds even in quiet environments; however, the presentation of the tinnitus can vary. It can affect one or both ears. The pitch and volume of the phantom sounds can vary, from barely noticeable to so loud they interfere with a patient’s hearing. Tinnitus is an inconsistent problem for some people but constant for others.

What Types of Noises Do Tinnitus Sufferers Hear?

  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Humming
  • Ringing
  • Roaring

To understand what it might be like to live with tinnitus, you can listen to samples of tinnitus sounds.

Are There Treatments for Tinnitus?

There is no known cure for tinnitus. However, some well-established tools and treatments can significantly reduce the perceived burden of tinnitus. With consistency and support from experienced healthcare professionals, these treatments might assist tinnitus sufferers — even those with severe cases.

How Does Tinnitus Affect Mental Health?

Tinnitus can have intense mental and emotional impacts. A study of veterans found that veterans diagnosed with tinnitus were twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health or behavioral disorders. These disorders include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Anxietyimage of soldiers silhouettes against sunset
  • Substance use disorders

Along with depression and anxiety, patients who suffer from tinnitus may also experience:

  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability/frustration
  • Memory issues
  • Mood swings
  • Stress
  • Pain
  • Headaches
  • Problems with work and family life

While most people think of tinnitus only as a minor annoyance, millions endure severe cases of tinnitus that severely limit their quality of life.

According to specialists, this continual distraction may be so damaging that it hinders relationships and job performance by making it difficult to focus on activities or discussions. Overall, tinnitus has many adverse personal and economic impacts.

What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

The symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Inability to understand speech, especially in noisy places

Hearing loss can have significant consequences for those who are living with it. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that they suffer from hearing damage until it’s severe. Even then, many people continue to push through because hearing loss is often associated with aging — even though it doesn’t have to be.

If you have hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance loss and used 3M earplugs, don’t assume they are a normal part of aging. Instead, reach out to our defective product attorneys to learn more about your legal options.

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