After juries found 3M liable for hearing damage in 10 of 16 bellwether Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) trials, which awarded 13 plaintiffs $300 million in damages, 3M announced July 26 that it was committing $1 billion to resolving CAEv2 litigation, which has become the largest mass tort in U.S. history, with claims filed by nearly 300,000 U.S. military personel, mostly veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The announcement made by 3M says that the $1 billion will come in the form of a trust that the company itself will fund. 3M acquired the original manufacturer of CAEv2, Aearo Technologies in 2008. In order to resolve CAEv2 litigation, 3M announced that its Aearo subunit will file for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to the announcement, 3M chairman and chief executive officer Mike Roman said, “We have great respect for the brave men and women who protect us, and remain committed to the military as an active partner and valued customer going forward.”
Roman added, “We determined that taking this decisive action now will allow 3M and Aearo Technologies to address these claims in a way that is more efficient and equitable than the current litigation.”
In addition to CAEv2 claims, the $1 billion trust also resolves claims related to Aearo’s discontinued mask and respirator products utilized to reduce workplace exposure to asbestos, silica, coal mine dust or occupational dusts. 3M also stated that it will allocate an additional $240 million to fund projected related case expenses, and that it will provide additional funding if required under the terms of the agreement.
According to the Financial Times, some attorneys that are representing CAEv2 plaintiffs said the $1 billion trust would be “woefully underfunded” and they would fight the bankruptcy filing in court.
“Instead of negotiating in good faith, 3M decided to move its relentless attack on US soldiers from the civil courts to the bankruptcy system,” a lead plaintiff attorney told the Financial Times.
3M’s announcement comes three years after the start of 3M CAEv2 litigation, in which plaintiffs claim that an imperceptible design flaw caused a loose fit that allegedly caused hearing loss or tinnitus.