A lot has happened in the last few months, from 3M colluding with Aearo Technologies in the hopes that bankruptcy would shield them from liability to another attempt at mediation (this one lasting two days), to the Department of Defense producing hundreds of thousands of pages of hearing exam results for the hundreds of thousands of veterans involved in this case. All in all, thanks to a judge who refuses to give in to 3M’s shameful tactics, veterans’ claims are still alive and proceeding in federal court in the Northern District of Florida.
As to 3M’s attempt to avoid liability in bankruptcy court, the MDL judge issued an Order lambasting 3M for “devising a scheme to escape the MDL and this Court for good.” She further characterized the “newly concocted narrative” as “nakedly duplicitous.” Thankfully, the bankruptcy court in Indiana agreed and did not allow 3M’s scheme to come to fruition. Instead, the veterans’ claims against 3M were allowed to proceed.
In light of this defeat, 3M lost some of its bargaining power and was more willing to negotiate with the plaintiffs’ lead counsel in September’s court-ordered two-day mediation. According to the Court, this mediation was successful in that both sides moved closer toward a resolution. The Court suggested that another mediation would be ordered soon.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense just produced hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pages of hearing test records for the entire MDL plaintiff population. These records will go a long way in assessing the strength of the plaintiffs’ cases and possibly in assigning value to the cases. The records might also weed out the plaintiffs’ cases that show a lack of hearing loss, or possibly hearing loss not attributable to the 3M earplugs. Either way, the records will only help in finally bringing the cases to a resolution.
If you’re not familiar with these cases, it’s helpful to know that more than 300,000 military veterans and active service members have filed claims against 3M for defects in the company’s combat earplugs that caused varying levels of hearing loss and tinnitus. The number of plaintiffs makes this the largest mass tort in history called a Multi-District Litigation (MDL), which is being overseen by the Federal District Court of the Northern District of Florida.
As explained in past posts, this is not a class action in which there is one case and one plaintiff that represents the entire class of 300,000 plaintiffs. In this MDL, there are over 300,000 individual plaintiffs who have individual cases. Certain cases are selected by the Court to be tried. These are called “Bellwether Cases,” and the parties analyze the results of these cases in order to then craft a settlement to resolve the remaining hundreds of thousands of cases. Thus, the results of the Bellwether Cases significantly impact the ultimate outcome for every other plaintiff who has a claim.
Wins & Losses
In the past year, there have been 14 Bellwether Cases tried, involving 17 plaintiffs. The plaintiffs have won 8 of the 14 cases (including the $110 million verdict mentioned above, a $50 million verdict, and a $22.5 million verdict) while 3M has won 6, meaning the plaintiffs received nothing. It’s a tight race in many ways, and we can only hope that the next round of cases will feature meritorious claims with strong and honest plaintiffs who deserve adequate compensation for the hearing loss sustained while in the service of this country. We can also hope that the recent developments and rulings from the MDL Court will spur the negotiations and that the next mediation will lead to a full and final settlement of all these claims. The servicemen and women who have hearing loss or tinnitus while serving our country certainly deserve compensation!
Presenting Your 3M Earplug Case
If you or someone you know used the 3M earplugs in the military between 2003 and 2015 and sustained hearing loss or now deals with tinnitus or some other hearing issue, it’s time to speak to a personal injury attorney who understands the litigation against 3M and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Please call Doug Bailey at Bailey | Stock | Harmon | Cottam | Lopez LLP right away for a free consultation. He will evaluate your claim, make sure you have the necessary proof, and help you to be confident with the truth of your case.
In the meantime:
- Hold onto your 3M earplugs (CAEv2) if you still have them.
- Gather any photos or videos showing you wearing the CAEv2 earplugs.
- Make a list of the base(s) you served on while using your CAEv2 earplugs.
- Summarize your exposure to IEDs or EFPs during your service.
- Keep a copy of your DD Form 214 and any other military paperwork dealing with hearing loss, discharge, or service-related disability.
- Gather your medical records that show the treatment you’ve received for your hearing loss or other hearing issues.