A Florida federal jury cleared 3M of liability in the ninth bellwether trial in military members’ mass litigation over hearing loss caused by faulty combat earplugs, defeating plaintiff service members’ claims for the fourth time.
The Pensacola jury determined the earplugs, produced by 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC, were not defectively designed or unreasonably dangerous. The verdict said hearing loss sustained by former U.S. Army soldier Carlos Montero wasn’t the fault of 3M. He served from 1995 to 2018.
However, this 3M victory comes less than a week after the company’s most costly trial loss. A Tallahassee jury determined that these same earplugs were in fact defective and caused Theodore Finley, a former soldier, to suffer hearing loss. The jurors granted him a $22.5 million award, with $15 million of that being punitive damages.
Of the nine cases that have gone forward, plaintiffs have succeeded in five. An Army sergeant convinced a jury of 3M’s liability in November and got a more than $13 million verdict.
Meanwhile, a three-plaintiff trial in April resulted in a $7.1 million award, an October trial ended with an $8.2 million award for an Army veteran, and a jury in June determined that 3M was mostly responsible for a machine gun operator’s hearing loss and awarded him $1.7 million.
More than 250,000 service members and other individuals are included in the MDL, with six more trials set for next year.
3M beat previous claims in the second, fifth and sixth bellwether trials, which ended in defense verdicts.
In the cases, plaintiffs allege 3M and Aearo supplied CAEv2 earplugs that were defective and did not protect against service-related tinnitus and hearing loss. Meanwhile, 3M argues that the military bears some responsibility for how the earplugs were designed and delivered.