Two separate juries in the most recent 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) bellwether trials have returned one verdict for 3M, and in the other, a $13 million award to a U.S. Army veteran for hearing damage and tinnitus—a ringing in the ear—he developed, allegedly because of the defective earplugs.
A jury in the seventh bellwether trial, held in Tallahassee, returned the verdict on Monday, in favor of Guillermo Camarillorazo, an active-duty soldier, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan on several deployments. Camarillorazo joined the Army in 2001, and was awarded $816,395 in compensatory damages and $12.2 million in punitive damages, according to Star Tribune, the newspaper based in Minneapolis, located near 3M’s headquarters in Maplewood, MN.
Camarillorazo’s award is the highest returned to a U.S. military service member thus far in what is believed to be the largest mass tort in U.S. history. Over 250,000 veterans and active military personnel have filed claims against 3M, accusing the company of knowingly providing the U.S. military with defective earplugs and failing to notify them about the design flaws in the double-ended hearing protection devices.
In the sixth trial, a Pensacola federal jury returned the verdict for 3M this past Friday, clearing the company of liability for a Tennessee U.S. Army veteran’s hearing loss and tinnitus.
Out of the seven bellwether trials—test cases that gauge the temperature of whether a settlement will resolve the massive amount of complex product liability lawsuits—four have returned plaintiff verdicts with monetary damages totalling $30 million.
Three more bellwether trials are scheduled before the end of the year. 3M lost the first bellwether, when a jury awarded three former U.S. Army vets a collective $7.1 million. A jury cleared 3M of liability in the second trial. An Army veteran was awarded $1.1 million in the third trial, after a jury found that 3M was 62% liable for the vet’s hearing damage. The fourth trial awarded an Army vet $8.2 million. 3M won a verdict in the fifth trial.
3M sold CAEv2 to the U.S. military until 2015. The company acquired the original manufacture of CAEv2—Aearo Technologies—in 2008. Most of the claims came after a whistleblower lawsuit was filed against 3M by a rival earplug maker in 2018. 3M settled that lawsuit with the Department of Justice for $9 million without admitting liability.