The centralized litigation recently established in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida. for all federally-filed 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits will convene “Science & Technology Day” on June 18, 2019.
As its name suggests, the event is intended to educate the Court on the scientific and technological aspect central to the litigation. 3M military earplugs attorneys from each side will present the relevant information in a neutral manner, without cross examination or advocacy. These presentations will be “off-the-record” and won’t be used or admitted for any other purpose. Although a court reporter will transcribe the proceedings, an official transcript will not be included in the docket or otherwise made available.
According to an April 23rd Case Management Order, Science Day will begin at 9:00 a.m. The parties’ counsel will meet and confer on presentation parameters in the coming days. They are to submit a joint proposed agenda to the Court by June 7th.
The April 23rd Order also indicates that new plaintiffs might soon be able to file their Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits directly in the Northern District of Florida, which would eliminate delays associated with the transfer of cases from other federal courts. Defense Counsel was to advise the Court of its position on the matter by April 26th. Assuming there are no objections, 3M military earplugs lawyers are to submit a proposed direct filing order no later than May 3rd.
Preparations are also underway to appoint individual attorneys to the plaintiffs leadership team, including Lead counsel, Liaison Counsel, Steering Committee, Executive Committee, and various subcommittees. All 3M military earplugs lawyers interested in serving must submit applications by May 3rd. Following the Court’s initial review, an unspecified number of applicants will present their credentials in person on May 20th and 21st. The presiding judge will issue a final order appointing the plaintiffs’ leadership team shortly after the presentations conclude.
More than 600 military veterans have already filed Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits in federal courts throughout the United States. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized these claims in the Northern District of Florida earlier this year, after 3M military earplugs lawyers predicted the litigation would eventually grow to include thousands of similar cases.
Virtually all United States military personnel serving in combat zones throughout the world from 2002 through 2015 used 3M Combat Arm Earplugs, Version 2. They were also standard issue for those participating in live-fire training exercises at military installations stateside and overseas during that period.
The reversible earplugs featured a yellow end that blocked damaging impact sounds typically encountered on the battlefield, but allowed the user to hear commands and other low-level noises. The earplugs’ green end performed like a traditional earplug, and blocked all sound.
Aearo Technologies Inc. developed Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, and subsequently won an exclusive contract to supply the devices the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. When the 3M Company acquired Aearo in 2008, it inherited both the military contract and many of the employees who designed and tested the earplugs.
Plaintiffs pursuing these lawsuits claim that 3M Combat Arms Earplugs suffered from design defects that left users unprotected during combat, resulting in permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus. They further charge that the 3M Company and Aearo Technologies knew about these defects by 2000, but failed to correct the issues and falsely certified that the earplugs met all military contract standards.
The plaintiffs’ allegations echo many of those put forth in a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by a 3M competitor in 2016. Although the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $9.1 million settlement in the case last July, the 3M Company did not admit any liability and continues to deny that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were in any way defective.
The federal agreement did not compensate veterans who may have developed hearing loss or tinnitus due to the earplugs’ alleged defects. For that reason, 3M military earplugs lawyers began to file individual personal injury claims on their behalf shortly after the whistleblower settlement became public.