3M has urged a Florida federal judge to upend a jury’s $55 million award to a U.S. Army veteran who claimed to have suffered hearing damage from using 3M Co. earplugs because the suit missed Kentucky’s one-year time bar on injury claims.
The Minnesota-based multinational pushed the judge to rethink a jury win and “grossly excessive” damages for one of two men claiming defective CAEv2 earplugs left them with tinnitus and hearing loss, whose bellwether case secured the largest award yet in sprawling multidistrict litigation.
A jury had awarded Ronald Sloan and fellow veteran William Wayne $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages each in January.
3M argued that Sloan first noticed his alleged hearing loss in 2005 while deployed in Iraq but didn’t file suit until 2020, years after the personal injury claim was time-barred by Kentucky law. Because the symptoms arose quickly for Sloan, who had no prior hearing issues and received annual training on hearing protection, and therefore Sloan can’t defer the start date on the statute of limitations. At minimum, the conglomerate asked the court to pare back the damages 3M deemed “completely out of line” with verdicts returned in other bellwether cases. The ratio of compensatory to punitive damages, currently 1:2.67, should be closer to 1:1, 3M argued.
3M is accused of knowingly concealing the fact that the dual-ended earplugs were defective and of falsifying test results.
Plaintiffs have won six out of 11 bellwether cases tried thus far. Pensacola juries tossed Army veterans Carter Stelling and Carlos Montero’s cases in December while a Tallahassee jury awarded Theodore Finley $22.5 million the same month.
An Army sergeant nabbed a $13 million verdict in November while another vet landed $8.2 following an October trial.
A June jury awarded a machine gun operator $1.7 million after finding 3M was mostly responsible for his hearing loss and a three-plaintiff trial in April meted out $7.1 million.
A Florida federal judge overseeing the MDL ordered a second wave of 500 cases to be prepared to go to trial in February 2022.