Jury holds 3M responsible for service members’ tinnitus and hearing loss due to defective earplugs.
(PENSACOLA, FL) April 30, 2021 – In a landmark bellwether trial in what may become the largest multidistrict litigation in U.S. history, a Florida jury hit corporate giant 3M with a $7.1 million verdict for providing defective earplugs issued to military members from 1999 until 2018.
The jury found 3M and its predecessor, Aearo LLC, responsible for providing CAEv2 Combat Arms earplugs that did not adequately protect the hearing of three plaintiffs, one of whom is represented by St. Louis-based OnderLaw, against hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing of the ears.
“We are more than proud to fight for members of our armed forces who have selflessly fought for us,” said plaintiff’s attorney Jim Onder. “For nearly two decades, 3M knew it was making money from a product that put hundreds of thousands of service members at risk for permanent hearing problems. Justice has been served in the courtroom today.”
The jury awarded $2.1 million in punitive damages to each of three plaintiffs, including a 20-year Army veteran represented by OnderLaw. The Las Vegas resident was also awarded $160,000 for pain and suffering. He began experiencing what has now become permanent ringing in both ears in 2006.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice sued 3M over Combat Arms earplugs and were awarded a $9.1 million settlement under the False Claims Act. Without admitting guilt, 3M was held responsible for selling a product to the military that did not protect soldiers’ hearing during combat or training situations.
“Unfortunately, none of that settlement money went to the soldiers whose lives were affected by faulty earplugs,” said Onder. “It is now up to us and our trusted legal colleagues from across the country to hold 3M truly accountable for the damage they have caused, and to compensate service members for the damage and losses they have endured.”
Two other plaintiffs’ cases were presented in the trial: a former tank platoon leader who began experiencing hearing loss and developed bilateral tinnitus in 2014; and an Army medic who gradually lost his hearing after using the earplugs while serving in Iraq. They were awarded $2.1 million each plus $350,500 and $320,000 respectively for medical costs, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. The OnderLaw plaintiff did not claim that the earplugs caused his hearing loss.
3M says it will appeal the ruling.
Additional trials are scheduled in short succession. In a trial scheduled May 17, the plaintiff suffers tinnitus that began following a 2009 IED blast in Afghanistan; June 7, the trial begins for a plaintiff who began experiencing tinnitus following his use of a 160-decibel M240 machine gun in 2005 and 2006.
To-date, tens of thousands of current and former members of the United States armed forces have filed claims against 3M due to hearing loss and tinnitus experienced after using Combat Arms earplugs in training and in battle. According to Onder, that number is expected to grow.
“We don’t just take on cases, we take on causes,” said Onder, who currently represents more mass tort clients than any other law firm in the nation. “We are honored to stand by our service members to hold 3M accountable. Together, we are making a difference.”
If you are a current or former member of the U.S. armed forces who is suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus after using CAEv2 earplugs, contact OnderLaw. We will fight for you.