3M Denied New Trial In $50 Million Military Earplug Verdict

Legal News

A judge ruled on Oct. 25 that U.S. Army veteran Luke Vilsmeyer’s trial was “substantially supported” by science and denied 3M’s motion to have his $50 million jury verdict retried. 

The Vilsmeyer verdict, decided in March of this year, was the 13th bellwether Combat Arms Earplug version 2 (CAEv2) trial. In 10 of the 16 bellwether trials, juries awarded 13 plaintiffs $300 million. 

In 3M’s motion, the company argued that Vilsmeyer’s hearing damages were mild and treatable. Nearly 290,000 plaintiffs have filed a 3M CAEv2 lawsuit, alleging that the company’s military-issued earplugs had an imperceptible loose fit that failed to protect their hearing, and caused them to develop hearing loss and/or tinnitus. 

According to Law360.com, U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr.’s order said that Vilsmeyer’s trial testimony was “extremely effective and compelling” when it came to describing how substantial his hearing damage caused emotional turmoil in his life, severely impacting his sleep quality and his relationship with his spouse and children. 

“Even defense counsel could not help but acknowledge plaintiff’s credibility and demeanor for truthfulness,” the order said. “So the court will not disturb the jury’s evaluation of plaintiff’s testimony and the noneconomic damages caused by his injuries, which are substantially supported,” Law360.com reported.

The jury in Vilsmeyer’s case cleared 3M of fraud claims but did find for the plaintiff on his products liability and negligence claims. 

3M, which indicated it would appeal Judge Dalton’s ruling, argued in its motion to toss the decision or have it retried that the jury was emotionally swayed by mentions of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The attacks were mentioned to establish a timeline as to when 3M began to contract with the U.S. military. 3M provided the Department of Defense with CAEv2 military earplugs from 2002 – 2015. 3M was not the original manufacturer of CAEv2. That distinction goes to a subunit of 3M called Aearo Technologies, which 3M announced it would acquire in 2007, ultimately completing the acquisition the following year. 

Recently, Aearo Technologies filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, ostensibly to protect 3M from CAEv2 litigation liabilities.


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