3M reached a $22.5 million fine in the US military’s latest earplug trial

FILE PHOTO: 3M Global Headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota
FILE PHOTO: The 3M logo is seen at its global headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S. March 4, 2020. REUTERS / Nicholas Pfosi / File Photo

December 11, 2021

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – A federal grand jury on Friday awarded $22.5 million to a US military veteran who alleges that combat earplugs sold by 3M Co left him with hearing loss and tinnitus, the biggest verdict in a major product lawsuit.

Juries in Pensacola, Florida, sided with former US soldier Theodore Finley in the latest trial over more than 272,000 lawsuits by service members and veterans alleging faulty earplugs manufactured by 3M were caused by 3M. damage their hearing.

Finley, who used earplugs while serving in the Army from 2006 to 2014, was awarded $7.5 million in damages and $15 million in compensatory damages. The verdict surpassed the $13 million that a jury awarded to a US Army sergeant last month.

The trial is the eighth so far to reach a verdict, with plaintiffs in four other cases winning more than $29 million combined. Juries have sided with 3M in three other trials, and two more are underway, with many more to come.

“We will ensure that 3M is fully responsible for putting profits above the safety of those who have served our nation,” said the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs – Bryan Aylstock, Shelley Hutson and Christopher Seeger – said in a joint statement.

3M called the ruling disappointing. They said they will continue to protect themselves, and 3M remains confident that Combat Earplugs Version 2 is safe and effective.

Aearo Technologies LLC, acquired by 3M in 2008, developed this product. The plaintiffs allege the company concealed design flaws, falsified test results, and failed to provide instructions on how to properly use the earplugs.

In order for the earplugs to work properly, the flexible cups on the side that protrude from the ear sometimes have to be folded. Otherwise, the plugs will slowly loosen and noise will enter. Veterans claim that 3M failed to communicate the need to fold the plugs.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, edited by Sonya Hepinstall) 3M reached a $22.5 million fine in the US military’s latest earplug trial

Bobby Allyn

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