The federal court overseeing hundreds of hearing loss claims involving the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, convened its seventh Case Management Conference on November 22nd, at which time various issues regarding discovery and bellwether trials were address.
According to an Order issued by the Court on November 25th, the parties are to confer and propose a bellwether selection protocol and discovery schedule by December 12, 2019. In the event they are unable to reach agreement, each side must submit a separate proposal by that same date.
The Court will discuss the bellwether proposal(s) during the biweekly leadership call on December 13, 2019.
The Order also establishes a schedule of upcoming Case Management Conferences through May 2020:
Each Conference will begin at 9:30 a.m. central time.
Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 were developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which won an exclusive contract to provide the military earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The 3M Company became a party to the contract after acquiring Aearo in 2008.
From 2003 through 2015, the 3M military earplugs were standard issue for all branches of the U.S. military. When the dual-ended earplugs’ green end was inserted, the devices blocked all sound in the manner of traditional earplugs. The yellow end was intended to protect the eardrum from concussive sounds commonly encountered in combat, while allowing the wearer to hear battlefield commands and other low-level noises.
There are nearly 2,700 3M military earplugs lawsuits now pending in the Northern District of Florida. All of the claims were filed on behalf of former active duty U.S. military personnel who developed hearing loss and/or tinnitus after being issued Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, while on combat assignments or during live-fire training exercises from 2003 through 2015.
In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $9.1 million settlement with the 3M Company to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency for over a decade. While the allegations echo those at the center of the current litigation, the settlement agreement did not require the company to admit liability and did not include provisions for compensating any service members who may have been harmed by Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2.