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When you lose your hearing, you lose so much more: easy conversation and communication, peaceful sounds, favorite music. Hearing plays a huge part in how we perceive the world around us, and losing your hearing can diminish your world. If your hearing loss happened because of a company’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation.
That’s exactly what 240,000 current and former service members are doing in their lawsuits against the 3M Company over what they allege are defective earplugs.
The first half of 2021 was an eventful time for 3M earplug claims. Three bellwether trials took place in three months in Florida.
Read on for the latest 3M earplug updates.
The third of the 3M earplug injury bellwether trials—trials that both sides look at as an early indicator of how the litigation as a whole will go—ended in favor of the plaintiff, veteran Lloyd Baker. This June 2021 trial marked 3M’s second earplug trial loss.
The Florida jury found 3M to be 62 percent at fault for the hearing loss and tinnitus with which he was diagnosed in 2009. Jurors awarded Baker $1.7 million in compensation upon deciding that 3M had failed to warn the military about a design problem that could allow the protective earplugs to slip out of the ear canal, the Daily Hornet reported.
The second 3M earplug trial occurred in May 2021 and involved the trial of plaintiff and veteran Dustin McCombs. In this trial, the jury concluded that 3M wasn’t liable for the hearing loss McCombs suffered, according to Bloomberg Industry Group.
Although 3M won this trial, the company has still suffered losses in two-thirds of the bellwether trials it has undertaken and has been found liable for the hearing loss of four out of five plaintiffs.
The first bellwether trial involved not one but three plaintiffs. Lewis Keefer, Luke Estes, and Stephen Hacker are all veterans who served during the time 3M combat earplugs were used and who developed hearing loss or tinnitus. The Florida jury in this five-week trial that concluded in April 2021 awarded the three plaintiffs a combined total of $7.1 million, including considerable punitive damages meant to punish 3M, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The first three bellwether trials in the 3M earplug litigation resulted in payouts totaling $8.8 million. Punitive damages, imposed to punish the defendant for exceptional negligence, played a large part in driving up these payouts to the seven-figure range. In the first bellwether trial, for example, each plaintiff was awarded $2.1 million in punitive damages.
Even without punitive damages, payouts for plaintiffs whose 3M earplug trials proved successful were well in the six-figure range. The plaintiffs received awards for compensatory damages between $120,000 and $350,500, depending on the extent of their damages, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
With so many scams and spam messages out there, it’s no wonder veterans and active-duty service members who are coping with hearing loss have wondered whether 3M earplug litigation is real.
It’s wise to be cautious, especially about a matter that would require you to provide personal information. We’re here to tell you that, yes, the 3M earplug lawsuit is a real, legitimate legal matter in which cases are being tried in court.
New plaintiffs still have time to apply for a 3M earplug lawsuit. If you would like to learn more about filing a claim, make sure that any law firm you contact to sign up for this litigation is a real, established firm with licensed attorneys and a history of experience practicing law.
You can expect the consultation to be completely free of charge. In most cases, attorneys handle claims of this nature on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you won’t have to pay now to move forward with a claim. Your lawyer would only collect a portion of the payout the law firm successfully recovers for you as their attorneys’ fees.
The ongoing 3M earplug litigation is a mass tort matter that has been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in Florida. If the phrase “mass tort” sounds like legalese, let’s break that down.
“Tort” is the term for a civil, rather than criminal, wrong. A tort claim generally seeks financial compensation, even though the harm suffered isn’t always financial in nature, rather than criminal penalties like a prison sentence for the defendant. Personal injury matters like car accidents and slip and falls are tort claims.
What makes mass torts different is the scale of the harm. A motor vehicle accident is likely to involve just one victim or a few victims. Mass tort claims arise when numerous people suffer similar harms and losses from the same (or a similar) act of negligence.
The 3M earplug lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The official docket number for this case is 3:19-md-02885, and U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, in Pensacola, is presiding over the legal proceedings.
MDLs are sometimes confused with class action claims, but they’re not the same. The 3M earplug MDL combines individual cases of this type into one matter for the purpose of pretrial processing and collecting of information and evidence. However, every plaintiff is pursuing an individual claim and will have their own trial or, if 3M is willing to settle the claim, will have their attorney negotiate their own settlement that takes into account their individual losses.
What many of the veterans injured by 3M earplugs are really wondering is whether pursuing a claim is worthwhile. Here are some things to consider when making this decision for yourself:
You might not receive a million-dollar payout for your claim. It’s still better to receive any compensation for your hearing loss, costs of medical treatment, lost income or earning potential, and pain and suffering than to receive no payout at all.
In the bellwether trials, plaintiffs have won six-figure awards for compensatory damages like these. Even if your claim doesn’t result in a million-dollar award of punitive damages, these payouts still translate to a worthwhile amount of money.
Instead, these lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they only get paid a fraction of the compensation they successfully recover for their clients. If your case never gets you a payout, you never pay for legal representation. Often, the attorney will also advance the upfront costs of filing the claim and acquiring the opinions of expert witnesses.
As of June 2021, 3M has yet to begin settling the earplug injury cases against the company. However, it’s not unusual for companies involved in mass tort matters to start settling claims after the first trials have taken place, especially when those trials have resulted in some large verdicts.
Even if you’re not sure you would be comfortable going to trial, it doesn’t hurt to speak to an attorney about your claim and the likelihood of and realities of going to trial. Knowing what the trial process is really like or finding out the other options for resolution that you may have besides a trial may help you decide if moving forward with a case is worthwhile to you.
To have the grounds to sue the 3M Company for hearing loss resulting from the use of its earplugs, you generally need the following:
Beyond these qualifications, 3M earplug lawsuit attorneys will examine your damages, or the harms and losses you suffered. Although not all plaintiffs will have extensive medical bills or amounts of lost income, suffering from substantial hearing loss is likely to cause at least some financial impact on your life, as well as putting you through a great deal of pain and suffering that causes your overall quality of life to decline.
Most of the 240,000 plaintiffs currently suing 3M for hearing loss are either veterans or active-duty service members.
You may have grounds to sue if you served in any branch of the military and in any position in which you used the 3M earplugs on the battlefield, during operations, or even during training exercises. Some of the plaintiffs in the successful bellwether trials served in capacities where exposure to dangerously loud sounds was obvious, like machine gun operator, but others served in less overtly noisy roles, like medic.
In some cases, civilians may have the grounds to sue 3M for hearing loss related to the company’s hearing aids. As of June 2021, the lawsuits are focused on the CAEv2 earplugs, which means that civilians would need to be able to prove that they used the CAEv2 tactical earplugs to be eligible for compensation.
So far, the earplugs lawsuits against the 3M Company involve only one type of earplugs: the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2). CAEv2 earplugs were dual-sided tactical earplugs that came in a distinctive yellow and dark green color combination, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One end of the earplug was supposed to block the sounds of ballistics and explosions completely, while the other end was intended to allow for communication while muffling loud noises. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that, due to a defect, the earplugs failed to provide the intended protection from these dangerously loud sounds and caused the individuals using them to develop hearing loss, according to Reuters.
Officially, 3M has not admitted that its earplugs were defective. Despite discontinuing the product in 2015, the company did not recall the combat earplugs. Although 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the Department of Justice in 2018 to settle allegations that the company had sold defective earplugs to the military and failed to warn of the defect, the terms of the settlement did not require 3M to admit liability.
Just using the 3M earplugs during the time you served isn’t enough to join the litigation. You also need to document that you suffered injuries from using the product. The types of injuries involved in the lawsuits are hearing loss and tinnitus.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus yet but you’re concerned about your hearing, consult a doctor right away. Hearing loss may progress so gradually that you don’t notice it immediately. However, the sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can begin getting the assistance that may reduce the impact of hearing loss on your quality of life.
Hearing loss can occur in one ear or in both ears, according to the National Library of Medicine. Some people who suffer hearing loss can’t hear at all, while others have only impaired hearing.
Hearing loss can occur from a variety of different causes, some of which are temporary and treatable and others permanent and irreversible. When hearing loss happens because of damage to the cells of the inner ear or to the auditory neural system, which can occur due to loud noise exposure, that damage may be permanent and irreparable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Even if your hearing loss is not reversible, treatment can still help you hear and communicate better and reduce its impact on your life. Wearable devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants that are surgically implanted into your ear may be options to discuss with your healthcare team.
Some plaintiffs in the 3M hearing aid lawsuits have a condition called tinnitus, in which they hear a noise in their ears that has no external cause. A ringing, often high-pitched, is the most common sound associated with tinnitus. You might also hear a low-pitched ringing or a clicking, buzzing, roaring, rushing, hissing, humming, or pulsing. The sound that sufferers of tinnitus hear may be loud or soft, and it may be constant or may come and go.
Tinnitus can seriously impact your life, especially if your condition is severe and involves constant, loud noise that interferes with your ability to communicate, socialize, work, and sleep. Hearing aids are one form of treatment that may help, particularly when your tinnitus is noise-induced. You might also benefit from using noise suppression interventions, certain medications, and forms of counseling that include tinnitus retraining therapy, according to Mayo Clinic.
To get the compensation you deserve for the life-changing hearing loss or tinnitus you have suffered, you need to join the 3M earplug lawsuit.
Through your claim, you can receive compensation for the following harms and losses:
As the bellwether trials have kicked off, new plaintiffs are still filing lawsuits. If you think you may have a case, please don’t wait to take action.
Tort claims, including mass tort claims, are governed by statutes of limitations that set deadlines for filing litigation. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, but it may mean that you have as little as a year or two to file a lawsuit. Depending on your situation, the statute of limitations may have begun when you learned about the connection between 3M earplugs and hearing loss by seeing the lawsuit filings in the news, or it may have begun when you were diagnosed.
It’s not always easy to make sense of statute of limitations deadlines, especially in complex matters like this. An attorney should be the one determining which deadline applies to you, so reach out to one promptly.
Realistically, you’re going to want an attorney to handle a 3M earplug lawsuit. Despite the settlement with the Department of Justice and the multimillion-dollar jury awards in the bellwether cases, the company hasn’t backed down or admitted liability.
The law firm of Console & Associates is working with a network of attorneys with experience handling product liability matters like this one. Call 866-778-5500 or fill out our online contact form, and we’ll review your case at no cost and assist you in getting your 3M earplug lawsuit started.