Thousands of hearing loss lawsuits involving the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, continue to move forward in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, where the judge overseeing the massive litigation recently established a schedule governing discovery and other matters related to the proceeding’s first bellwether trials.
More than 5,200 3M military earplugs lawsuits are already pending in the federal multidistrict litigation underway in Florida. However, legal experts have suggested that as many as 140,000 plaintiffs could eventually file claims in that proceeding or in other courts around the United States.
The vast majority of claimants are military veterans who were issued Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, for use during overseas combat operations or live-fire training exercises between from 2002 through 2015. They allege that the earplugs were defective and failed to provide users with adequate hearing protection, thus resulting in permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
The federal litigation’s bellwether trials will help gauge the strength of theses claims and possibly provide insight into how future juries might decide similar 3M military earplugs lawsuits.
According to a Pretrial Order issued in the Northern District of Florida on February 25th, the parties have already made their initial bellwether case selections. They were permitted to begin serving interrogatories and requests for case specific production of documents on February 26th.
Core discovery is tentatively scheduled to wrap up by July 31st, at which time the Court will create four bellwether trial groups – A, B, C, D, and E — and assign five 3M military earplugs lawsuit to each group.
Fact Discovery for Group A cases will conclude by September 25st.
Plaintiffs’ Expert Disclosures are due by October 2nd, while those of the defendants are due by November 2nd. Plaintiffs’ Expert Witness Rebuttals must be submitted by November 11th. This should allow for completion of Expert Depositions by December 23rd.
Case-specific Daubert and dispositive motions for the first trial are due by January 8, 2021.
Assuming the Court is able to maintain the schedule set forth in the Order, the first bellwether trial will occur sometime in April 2021.