The federal judge who is overseeing hearing damage and hearing loss claims related to allegedly faulty earplugs, Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2) supplied by 3M to the U.S. military from 2003 until 2015, recently scheduled a data day to review the statistics surrounding the dizzying amount of earplug claims.
During CAEv2 litgation, 3M has stated on more than one occasion that it is difficult for the company to access all the claims, which at one time numbered close to 300,000. Judge Casey M. Rodgers, who is overseeing the consolidated cases in multidistrict litigation (MDL), a process that prevents U.S. district courts all across the country from being bombarded by similar claims, has whittled down the number of eligible cases to 265,000. Judge Rodgers ordered the data day as a means for 3M and the plaintiffs to summarize the vast number of hearing loss claims.
3M’s interpretation of the data presented suggested that the company believes roughly 80% of the claims should be dismissed while the plaintiffs suggested only a fraction of the claims would be excluded from a settlement.
Judge Rodgers recently ordered a pause in settlement talks between 3M and CAEv2 plaintiffs due to a persistent impasse which has failed to settle one claim in the litigation. To date, a first wave of 16 bellwether trials (which serve as test cases) has concluded. Juries in 10 of those trials found 3M liable for hearing loss/damage claims, and awarded 13 plaintiffs in those trials $300 million in damages.
After the 16 bellwether trials concluded, 3M shifted its legal liabilities (money it owes CAEv2 plaintiffs and legal expenses) onto a subsidiary company, Aearo Technologies, which was the original manufacturer of CAEv2. (3M acquired Aearo in 2008.) After dumping its legal liabilities on Aearo, the subunit subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Plaintiffs have filed a motion with a U.S. Bankruptcy judge to dismiss the bankruptcy plan. A hearing over that motion has been postponed until April.
Thus, it looks like 3M and plaintiffs are no closer to even discussing a settlement let alone reaching one than before the pause was ordered by Judge Rodgers.