Just days after 3M announced plans to bankrupt its subsidiary that makes military earplugs, two U.S. military veterans filed sepearte motions to block the plan. On July 26, 3M announced that Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired in 2008, would file for chapter 11 bankruptcy while the parent company—3M—would resolve all 288,000 Combat Arms Earplug version 2 claims with a $1 billion trust, thereby ending the nation’s largest mass tort in U.S. history with a less than $4,000 per plaintiff average payout.
On August 3, veteran Richard Valle, asked the judge who is overseeing the federally consolidated CAEv2 claims, Judge Casey Rodgers, to issue an injunction that would prevent 3M from taking any legal action to stop future earplug claims. The following day, veteran Guy Cupit, filed a motion, asking Judge Rodgers to block 3M “from arguing it bears anything but full liability” for injuries, Reuters reported.
Judge Rodgers is not responsible for issuing a ruling on whether to allow Aearo’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That ruling will be issued by a bankruptcy judge in Indiana on August 18. For the time being, however, all 3M military earplug claims that are on the administrative docket are paused from being transferred to the active docket.
To date, 16 test cases (bellwether trials) have been completed. Juries found 3M liable for 13 veterans’ hearing damage in 10 cases. (The first trial involved three cases and the 11th trial tested two plaintiff’s cases.) In the plaintiff verdicts, juries awarded $300 million in damages. Because of Colorado law, one plaintiff saw his award reduced to $21 million from $55 million. Juries cleared 3M of liability in six trials.
After a whistleblower lawsuit was filed by another military earplug maker in 2018, which 3M settled for $9.1 million, military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan became aware of the connection between their hearing loss and/or tinnitus and the CAEv2 hearing-protection devices. Lawsuits against 3M claim that the military-issued earplugs, which were sold to the U.S. military until 2015, had an imperceptible loose fit that failed to protect soldiers from loud noises on the battlefield or in training.