A federal jury on Thursday awarded $110 million to two US military veterans who said they suffered hearing damage from combat earplugs made by multinational manufacturer 3M.
The decision is the latest in hundreds of thousands of lawsuits accusing 3M of knowingly selling faulty earplugs to the military. 3M maintains that the discontinued product, marketed as Combat Arms, Version 2 earplugs, is effective and safe to use.
Thursday’s decision represents the largest amount awarded to date in the case against 3M. Two veterans, Ronald Sloan and William Wayman, were each awarded $15 million in damages and $40 million in punitive damages by jury in Florida’s Northern District Court.
Bryan F. Aylstock, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said both men suffered from tinnitus and hearing loss, which affected their daily lives.
“While they are certainly pleased with the verdict and happy that the jury has seen the protections 3M has tried to put in place, they have to go back to their lives on permanent conditions that are not never goes away and will only get worse,” said Mr. Aylstock.
Sloan and Wayman both used earplugs during training and deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to their attorneys. Sloan served in the Army from 1994 to 2015 and Mr. Wayman served from 1997 to 2017.
Mr. Aylstock said there was no need for 3M to put troops in harm’s way.
“This isn’t a paper clip or a Post-it note, if it doesn’t work that’s not a big deal,” Mr Aylstock said. “They know this will cause permanent damage to our soldiers.”
3M said in an emailed statement that it would appeal the jury’s decision, noting that the company had won two previous lawsuits in the earplug case.
“While we are disappointed with the rulings, the overall mixed record of association to date shows that plaintiffs face significant challenges in this litigation and each school Cases must be considered on the basis of individual facts and circumstances,” the statement said.
Aearo Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M, developed the product and is also the defendant in the case.
Nearly 300,000 service members and civilians are involved in the earplug lawsuit, which is one of the largest in U.S. history.
Of the 10 other cases decided, 3M won 5 and the plaintiffs won 5. Nine of the 14 service members who were plaintiffs in successful lawsuits were awarded between $1.7 million and $22.5 million each.
Another five test dates are set for this year. The next trial is scheduled to take place in Pensacola, Fla., in March.
The lawsuit was prompted in part by a lawsuit alleging 3M sold faulty earplugs to the military in violation of the False Complaints Act. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million in a settlement with the Justice Department in response to the lawsuit. The settlement does not define liability.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/us/veterans-earplugs-3m-lawsuit.html Two veterans awarded $110 million in 3M Earplug lawsuit