A Florida federal jury said that a service member sustained $1.7 million in hearing loss damages from 3M’s combat earplugs, and that 3M was 62% responsible, handing the company its second loss in three rapid-fire bellwether trials.
The jury found that 3M failed to warn of issues with the earplugs, and also said that plaintiff Lloyd Baker was 38% at fault. Some 235,000 service members have brought claims in the nation’s largest-ever MDL, saying the earplugs failed to protect their hearing in ultraloud training and combat environments.
Baker, a former infantryman and M240 machine gun operator, said he experienced muffled hearing and ringing beginning when he had training at Fort Lewis in Washington state in 2005 and 2006 before going to Iraq. Baker was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears and tinnitus in 2009.
The exercises at Fort Lewis were held inside buildings meant to emulate the city environments that troops would see in Iraq, and involved detonating loud munitions inside those buildings.
In the first bellwether trial, earlier this year, a jury found 3M responsible for the injuries of three service members and awarded a total of $7.1 million.
In the second trial, a jury cleared 3M of liability.
3M has argued that the military bears some responsibility for the way the earplugs were designed and delivered.