3M hit with $110 million verdict in latest U.S. military earplug trial

Jan 27 (Reuters) – A federal jury on Thursday awarded $110 million to two US Army veterans who said combat earplugs sold to the military by 3M Co (MMM.N) caused them hearing damage, the biggest verdict , which has been filed by hundreds of thousands of complaints about the product so far.

The Pensacola, Fla., jury sided with U.S. Army veterans Ronald Sloan and William Wayman in alleging that the design of 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 was defective, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

The two men are among nearly 300,000 military personnel and others who have sued 3M alleging they suffered hearing damage from use of the earplugs, in what has become the largest federal mass tortious action in U.S. history.

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Sloan and Wayman were each awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages, attorneys said. Each won more than the previous largest judgment in the $22.5 million lawsuit.

“The jury continues to find that 3M’s earbuds were defective and that they are responsible for causing irreparable hearing damage to those who have served our country,” attorneys for plaintiffs Bryan Aylstock, Shelley Hutson and Christopher Seeger said in a joint statement Explanation.

3M said in a statement it was disappointed and would appeal. Noting that it had won the last two earplug trials, it said its behavior was consistent with its “long-standing commitment to the safety of our U.S. military.”

Aeroro Technologies, which bought 3M in 2008, developed the product. The plaintiffs allege the company hid design flaws, falsified test results, and failed to provide instructions on how to use the earbuds properly.

The process was the eleventh so far in which a judgment was made. Plaintiffs have collectively won more than $160 million in six lawsuits, including Thursday’s. The juries concurred with the five other 3Ms.

Five more trials are planned for this year.

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Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Edited by Leslie Adler, Alexia Garamfalvi and Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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