Attorneys representing military veterans in class action lawsuits involving the 3M Company’s allegedly defective military earplugs have asked a federal judge to establish a separate track for their cases.
There are currently some 640 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, where all federal cases of this nature were recently centralized to allow for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Most of these lawsuits are personal injury claims for service-related hearing loss and tinnitus, although a number seek class action certification to pursue economic damages on behalf of all military service members who received the allegedly faulty product.
In a motion filed with the Court on May 3rd, several 3M military earplugs lawyers asserted that the class action complaints should be litigated separately from the personal injury lawsuits.
“Given the particulars of this litigation, the number of pending class cases, the disparate needs of the PI Cases and the class cases, and the potential for conflicts of interest, it is necessary to establish a separate class action litigation track,” the motion asserts. “Doing so will streamline case management, ensure that the PI Cases and class cases do not delay one another, avoid any potential conflicts of interest, and safeguard class member interests.”
Among other things, the 3M military earplugs lawyers noted that the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) had contemplated a separate class action track when it established the multidistrict litigation in April, but ultimately decided to leave that decision up to the trial court.
According to an Order dated May 8th, the Court will take up the motion during the litigation’s June 17th Case Management conference. The parties’ 3M military earplugs lawyers should be prepared to discuss the matter at that time.
The multidistrict litigation underway in Florida involves 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, which were distributed to all United State’s active duty military personnel serving in combat zones or participating in live-fire training exercises from 2003 through 2015.
The military earplugs were developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which won an exclusive contract to supply the devices to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. Aearo and its military contract were acquired by the 3M Company in 2008.
Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were designed to be reversible, with the green end blocking all sound in the manner of a traditional earplug. While the yellow end protected the eardrum from damaging concussive sounds commonly encountered in combat, it also allowed the user to hear battlefield commands and other low-level noise.
In July 2018, the 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle federal allegations that it knowingly sold defective earplugs to the United States’ military for over a decade. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were too short to fit properly in certain individuals and could loosen imperceptibly while in use. Although 3M and its predecessor were aware of these defects by 2000, they failed to take any corrective actions and falsely certified that the devices met all standards of their military contract.
The settlement’s announcement triggered a wave of personal injury filings across the country, and many 3M military earplugs lawyers believe the federal litigation will soon grow to include thousands of similar claims.