Florida jury awards military plaintiffs $7.1 million in first 3M military earplugs trial
3M was hit with a $7.1 million verdict on Friday by a Florida Federal jury in the first bellwether trial of the massive 3M defective earplug multidistrict litigation. The trial started March 29 and involved plaintiffs Stephen Hacker, Luke Estes, and Lewis Keefer. The jury agreed with the servicemembers’ allegations that 3M’s dual-ended CAEv2 earplugs were defective and failed to protect against hearing loss and tinnitus.
$2.1 million in punitive damages was awarded to each of the three plaintiffs. The jury awarded an additional $350,500 to Estes and $320,000 to Keefer for medical costs, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Hacker was awarded an additional $160,000 for pain and suffering.
Bryan Aylstock and Christopher Seeger, attorneys for the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Friday that the three “showed courage in standing up against 3M on behalf of all the veterans who now face preventable hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of the CAEv2 earplugs. The evidence is clear: 3M knew their earplugs were defective, yet they allowed our servicemembers to suffer these life-altering injuries (1)."
3M, however, called the verdict “just the first step” in the litigation and said it believed there were multiple grounds for appeal. A spokeswoman for 3M added, “We do not believe the plaintiffs met their burden of proving that the CAEv2 product was defectively or negligently designed or caused each plaintiff’s purported injuries (2).”
There are now around 240,000 total claims in the multidistrict litigation, making it the largest mass tort ever brought in federal court (3). The next bellwether trial is scheduled to begin on May 17 and involves plaintiff Dustin McCombs, who developed tinnitus after an IED blast in Afghanistan in April 2009 (4). A third trial will take place a few weeks later, on June 7, for plaintiff Lloyd Baker. Baker says his tinnitus developed during urban-warfare training at Fort Lewis in 2005 and 2006 while he operated a 160-decibel M240 machine gun.
If you or a loved one were a U.S. military service member, veteran or contractor between 2003 and 2015 who was diagnosed with partial or total hearing loss or suffer from tinnitus, you may also have a claim against 3M for substantial compensation without ever going to court. Complete the intake form HERE for a free, no-obligation review of your case. Feel free to share this with any friends of family who may have been affected as well – we’re here to help. If you do not receive a recovery through a lawsuit or settlement, you don’t owe us anything.