Military

Judge Rodgers actively working to streamline 3M defective military earplugs litigation

December 30, 2019

Since the cases were transferred to Florida, Judge Rodgers has been actively working with the parties and the government to streamline the litigation. The Court has now held seven case management conferences as the pretrial proceedings continue to move forward.

As you may recall from previous updates, hundreds of lawsuits against 3M were consolidated in Florida federal court earlier this year under U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation described Rodgers, who served in the United States Army from 1985-1987, as “an able jurist with experience in presiding over a large products liability MDL (1).” The Panel further adds, “Centralization in the Northern District of Florida allows the panel to assign this nationwide litigation to a forum with the necessary judicial resources and expertise to manage this litigation efficiently and in a manner convenient for the parties and witnesses (2).”

Since the cases were transferred to Florida, Judge Rodgers has been actively working with the parties and the government to streamline the litigation. The Court has now held seven case management conferences as the pretrial proceedings continue to move forward. The parties have been working on bellwether proposals, a discovery schedule, and communication with the Department of Veterans Affairs about “the permissible means and procedures for obtaining veterans’ health and disability records (including audiograms) (3).” Additional case management conferences are scheduled for January, February, and March of 2020.

The Court also held a “science day” back in August, which allowed each side to briefly summarize its theory of the case regarding the alleged product defect. Both parties were able to present up to three speakers to address some of the scientific aspects of the litigation – including sound properties and measurement, how sound is perceived by the human ear, the science of hearing loss, and standards and procedures for testing hearing protection devices (4).

The parties have additionally reached an agreement with the government to expedite military records for all plaintiffs and have tolled any statutes of limitations to allow claims to be investigated and records to be gathered. Statutes of limitations, which are designed to help defendants, prescribe time limits for which a legal action can be brought after an event occurs. When these are tolled, it simply means the running of the time period is suspended, giving plaintiffs more time to bring suit.

3M's Global Headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota

3M allegedly “falsified test results, misrepresented performance specifications”

The hundreds of actions currently pending against 3M generally allege that the defendants’ dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were defective, causing plaintiffs to develop hearing loss and/or tinnitus. The plaintiffs, which include military servicemembers, contractors, and their families, allege 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military – even falsifying test results and misrepresenting performance specifications to qualify for a multi-million contract with the United States.

The earplugs were designed so that they could be used on one end as traditional earplugs (yellow end) or flipped around (black or olive end) to protect against louder noises such as explosions and gunfire. The lawsuits allege that 3M knew the earplugs did not fit well as they were too short or would loosen in some users' ears to the point that they were unable to effectively mitigate excessive noise, thereby causing the exact type of ear damage they were expressly designed to alleviate.

3M's dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs (CAEv2). The earplugs were designed so that they could be used on one end as traditional earplugs (yellow end) or flipped around (black or green end) to protect against louder noises such as explosions and gunfire.

Justice for servicemembers and veterans

Considering the 3M earplugs were standard issue to millions of members of the armed forces between 2003 and 2015, it is expected that the number of actions against 3M will continue to grow. Main Street Law Firm is committed to holding 3M accountable for their actions that put the health and welfare of countless service members at risk. Chad Readler, acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, sums it up well, “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences (5).”

It’s not too late

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 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.

1.      https://www.law360.com/articles/1146138/3m-to-face-mdl-over-defective-military-earplugs-in-florida

2.      https://www.law360.com/articles/1146138/3m-to-face-mdl-over-defective-military-earplugs-in-florida

3.      http://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/mdl2885/Case%20Management%20Order%20No.%206.pdf

4.      http://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/mdl2885/Pretrial%20Order%20No.%2014.pdf

5.      https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/3m-company-agrees-pay-91-million-resolve-allegations-it-supplied-united-states-defective-dual

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