Florida Northern District Court rules in favor of 3M in the Ninth Bellwether Trial
On December 15, 2021, the ninth 3M Earplug Bellwether test trial was concluded. The jury found in favor of the defendant company and noted that Plaintiff Carlos Montero failed to prove that the earplugs manufactured by the defendant company were in fact responsible for the hearing loss. The Florida Northern District Court thus issued a defense verdict.
Defendant company 3M has been facing several thousand claims filed by either current or former service members. Plaintiffs claimed to have sustained injuries involving tinnitus or hearing loss. The ongoing 3M earplug litigation is a mass tort matter and has been consolidated into multidistrict litigation, making it the largest multidistrict litigation ever. In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, No. 19-md-2885. Most of these litigations have been heard before U.S. District Judge M.Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida.
In these litigations, plaintiffs have alleged that the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), dual-sided tactical earplugs manufactured by 3M were defective. The purpose of the CAEv2 earplugs was supposed to block the sounds; however between the years 2001 and 2015, the earplugs failed to protect the ears of the service members who happened to use the product during their duty. Although 3M did not confirm these facts to be true, it discontinued the impugned product in the year 2015.
So far, nine bellwether trials have been concluded, where 3M had been asked to pay several million dollars, varying from $1.7 million to a whopping $22.5 million. However, the defendant company has won in four out of nine bellwether trials, wherein the federal jury in Florida found in favor of 3M.
In the latest verdict, the federal jury rejected plaintiff Carlos Montero’s claims that military earplugs manufactured by the defendant company failed to protect him during his exposure to weapons fire and military machinery during training and combat. The exposure caused him to suffer bilateral tinnitus and hearing loss.
The presently discussed verdict came just a week after a different Federal jury ruled the opposite and awarded $22.5 million as damages for the injuries caused to the plaintiff. The punitive damages were derivative of the jury’s finding that the defendant company committed fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, the defendant company argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were minimal, which was not appreciated by the Florida court. This was a massive win for the plaintiff, setting an extremely high benchmark for the future bellwether trials scheduled for January 2022.
The bellwether trials against the earplug manufacturer have been setting precedents and are seen as guiding the possible settlement talks in what might be the largest-ever U.S. mass tort, with around 250,000 veterans and military personnel alleging hearing loss from the product manufactured by the defendant company.
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 In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Prods. Liab. Litig. (McCombs v. 3M Co.), N.D. Fla., No. 7:20-cv-00094; Blum v. 3M Co et al, No. 7:20-cv-00122; Palanki v. 3M Co., N.D. Fla., No. 3:19-cv-02324; Montero v. 3M Company et al, 7:20-cv-00067
 Finley V. 3m Company Et Al, 7:20-cv-00170