Over 200,000 Hearing Injury Lawsuits Filed by Veterans Across the U.S.
Despite the ongoing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. District judge presiding over the 3M earplug hearing loss litigation confirmed the first jury trial will begin March 29, 2021. This trial will involve claims brought forward by three veterans claiming their 3M earplugs were defective and caused hearing injuries like hearing loss and tinnitus.
Over the last few years, thousands upon thousands of product liability lawsuits have been filed against 3M Company over injuries caused by their 3M Combat Arms Dual-Sided Earplugs. These earplugs were sold to the U.S. government and distributed to all service members between 2003 and 2015. They were standard issue, so over a decade of soldiers could be impacted by the defective earplugs.
Allegations indicate 3M withheld safety information and instructions on the proper use of the earplugs. According to these claims, these military earplugs’ reversible design contained flaws that failed to protect soldiers’ ears from the dangerously loud noises associated with combat and training exercises.
Given the common allegations raised against 3M Company, a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) was established before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida. Judge Rodgers established a “bellwether” trial process in an effort to work towards a litigation resolution. This series of early trial dates help parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony repeated throughout the claims.
Judge Rodgers issued a case management order on January 25 indicating the first earplug bellwether trial will go before a jury on March 29 and end by April 27. This same order also denoted the second bellwether trial will start May 17, followed by a third trial on June 7.
To maintain social distancing and proper health standards, the order indicates safety precautions will be discussed with partiers before the start of the trial. Judge Rodgers states the deputy clerk will disinfect the witness stand after each testimony and provide parties with alcohol wipes.
Though the outcomes of these bellwether trials will not bind the outcomes of other trials in the litigation, they will be closely watched by all parties to see if a settlement can be reached for the tens of thousands of cases filed in the MDL.