Judge Won’t Push Ahead On Filing Fees In 3M Earplug MDL

A Florida federal judge shut down 3M’s bid for an order to make more than 180,000 plaintiffs immediately pay filing fees in sprawling multidistrict litigation over the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, saying the fees were never waived and there is no feasible way to accelerate payments as 3M requested.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers slammed the motion filed the previous day, saying it is “hard to divine” what 3M hoped to accomplish in good faith, as imposing the fees on the plaintiffs in the MDL’s administrative docket would not be the “fantastical MDL-killer” 3M may have hoped for.

3M asked Judge Rodgers to order more of the plaintiffs in the administrative docket to pay filing fees, saying the lack of fees thus far has caused the case to balloon into the largest MDL in history.

The company had argued the court’s decision to waive the $402 per claim fee and other normal filing requirements in the administrative docket — which is separate from the regular docket — has allowed unvetted claims to flood the MDL, which had 2,700 cases as of November 2019 but now includes more than 265,000 individual claims in the administrative docket.

Judge Rodgers, however, said filing fees and other statutory requirements have never been “waived” in the MDL, and therefore the motion was moot. The judge added that no plaintiff has been allowed to proceed with a claim before paying the fees, and based on the court’s timeline, all plaintiffs on the administrative docket will have either paid the fee and moved to the active docket or dropped their case within the coming months.

The MDL, consolidated in 2019, includes more than 280,000 service members and others alleging hearing damage as a result of using 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs, which they say were defective.

Plaintiffs have prevailed in eight of 13 bellwether cases that have been tried so far, while 3M has beaten the claims in five of them. The largest verdict awarded $110 million to service members William Wayman and Ronald Sloan in January, while a recent trial in March ended in a $50 million verdict in favor of plaintiff Luke Vilsmeyer.

LAW360: https://www.law360.com/florida/articles/1481486/judge-won-t-push-ahead-on-filing-fees-in-3m-earplug-mdl

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