Jury Awards $7 Million To Three Veterans For Military Earplugs Hearing Loss | MedTruth – Prescription Drug & Medical Device Safety

From Carah Wertheimer

A federal jury has awarded three Army veterans $ 7.1 million who claimed defective 3M military ear plugs caused their permanent hearing damage.

Friday’s verdict bodes bad for 3M, which is now facing up to 240,000 similar claims from service members, veterans and some civilians in what is currently the largest mass killing in US history. In legal proceedings, it is alleged that 3M’s earplugs caused a constant ringing in the ears known as tinnitus, as well as partial and complete hearing loss.

The jurors of the first Bellwether Trial awarded each veteran $ 2.1 million in punitive damages and a total of $ 830,500 in various claims for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

In 2015, 3M discontinued the earplugs used in combat and training missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States.

Bellwethers: Trials that highlight trends

The five-week process, which ended April 30th, was the first of three 3M attempts at military earplugs. The lawsuits were grouped in a form of mass damages in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida known as Multidistrict Litigation.

Bellwether lawsuits are individual lawsuits carefully selected as test cases from the group of consolidated lawsuits. They are used to assess the strength of allegations and evidence, and to get a feel for the jury’s awards, thereby providing a basis for settlement or promoting a company’s ongoing defense against claims.

Many of the pending claims were “administratively filed” under a wildcard agreement under Bloomberg Law, with more than 500 similar cases found to be pending in the Minnesota state court, where 3M is headquartered. Reuters reported a total of 3,349 lawsuits filed under 3M’s most recent quarterly statement.

Veterans accuse 3M of hiding broken earbuds, putting their hearing at risk

Plaintiffs accused 3M of failing to warn of known design flaws, of “falsifying test results” and of not instructing the military on how to obtain the correct seal, Reuters reported.

Aearo developed the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 in the 1990s. They were the first double-ended earplugs that enable the wearer to either block all sounds or allow quieter sounds such as voice commands – and at the same time to protect against gunshots, explosives and other intense fighting noises protect – when used in the opposite direction.

However, plaintiffs claim that for years 3M knew the CAEv2 earplugs could come off easily, with first Aearo and then 3M failing to warn the military about their own lab and test results, according to the Wall Street Journal and Star Tribune.

Problem: Who is responsible for problems caused by shorter earbuds?

According to StarTribune, the 1999 Army’s request to Aearo Technologies to shorten the earbuds to fit a standard-edition military carry case is at the heart of 3M’s lawsuits against military earbuds.

However, tests conducted by Aearo in 2000 found that the shorter earbuds did not always fit properly and were not always effective unless they were positioned in a certain way, according to court documents. (Aearo developed the earplugs and sold them to the military until 3M bought Aearo in 2008.)

According to another StarTribune report, 3M notified the military of the need for proper earbud fitting and stated that the military was responsible for communicating this to soldiers.

The current wave of litigation began in 2018 after 3M agreed without a guilty verdict to pay $ 9.1 million to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that 3M and Aearo knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military. The Version 2 battle earplugs were too short to fit properly and could imperceptibly come off, the Justice Department said.

3M continues to defend its military earplugs, others disagree

3M continues to defend the safety of its earplugs in company statements and in an email to MedTruth.

“We do not believe that plaintiffs have assumed their onus to prove that the CAEv2 product was faulty, negligently designed, or caused the alleged injuries to each plaintiff,” said Fanna Haile-Selassie, communications manager at 3M.

“While we are disappointed and disagree with today’s judgments, they are only the first step in this legal battle. We believe there are several grounds of appeal, including those set out in our court motion, and we are currently examining our legal options. We remain confident in our case and stand ready to defend ourselves against plaintiffs’ allegations in the upcoming trials, ”she wrote.

During the process, 3M put the military in charge of the design and supply of the earplugs, Law360 reported.

Plaintiff’s attorney Bryan Aylstock and U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers do not accept 3M’s allegation.

“The evidence is clear: 3M knew their earplugs were defective, but they allowed our service members to suffer these life-changing injuries,” Aylstock said in a statement from Law360. “We look forward to starting the second Bellwether Trial on May 17th and holding 3M fully responsible for the damage they have done to those who have served our nation.”

And while Rogers acknowledged the military had a role in the design of earplugs, she rejected 3M’s attempt to shift responsibility.

Rogers ruled that 3M cannot communicate to the trial jury that “the government has dictated, instructed, approved, or otherwise exercised discretion with respect to military specifications for any aspect of the design of the CAEv2 or the content of any instructions or warnings . ”

Upcoming Bellwether attempts

The second and third Bellwether trials are scheduled for May 17th to 28th and June 7th to 18th. There is only one service member involved in each of them.

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