A Florida federal judge ordered an acceleration of bellwether trials and other cases in multidistrict litigation over veterans’ claims that 3M earplugs damaged their hearing, citing an “unprecedented backlog” of more than 250,000 cases.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers set into motion a series of orders requiring plaintiffs to move tens of thousands of cases from the administrative docket to the active docket, with 1,358 transitioning in the first batch and between 10,000 and 20,000 cases at a time in subsequent batches.

“Due to the unprecedented backlog of cases piling up on the administrative docket, which tallies over 250,000 cases, the court deems it necessary to accelerate the bellwether trials and discovery for the remaining mass of cases,” the judge said.

Additionally, a group of so-called “wave orders” will require the parties to work up hundreds of cases simultaneously, with the first three including about 500 cases per wave, consisting of instances in which necessary U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense information and data have been received.

The court plans to issue a new wave order every three months, with an eight-month discovery process for each wave.

The MDL, which includes cases brought by hundreds of thousands of military veterans and service members, was initially created in April 2019 and has proceeded rapidly to the bellwether trial stage.

The cases contend 3M and a predecessor, Aearo LLC, supplied “CAEv2” earplugs that were defective and didn’t protect against service-related tinnitus and hearing loss.

So far, 3M has faced three trials. It came out on top in one when a jury found the company was not responsible for the hearing loss of one veteran.

Law360: https://www.law360.com/articles/1416148

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