Seeger Weiss founding partner, Chris Seeger, has been appointed as Co-Lead Counsel on a team that will represent hundreds of U.S. military members in the growing 3M Earplug lawsuits. The leadership team was formed after judges evaluated 190 applications and listened to 64 presentations over a 2-day period.
In a departure from norm where a single judge appoints litigation leaders, Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida created a panel to review applications for the leadership team. The decision panel included U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Jones of the Northern District of Florida; Orran Brown of settlement administrator BrownGreer in Richmond, Virginia; and Ellen Reisman of Reisman, Karron, Greene in Washington D.C.
Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz in Pensacola was selected as lead counsel, along with Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson in Houston and Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss in New Jersey as co-lead counsel.
A number of other team positions were also appointed including two co-liaison counsel, 7 executive committee appointments, 14 plaintiffs steering committee appointments and a number of lawyers sent to nine subcommittees. A footnote on the filing, Judge Rodgers wrote that “final selections were difficult”.
Over 800 lawsuits have been filed against 3M for their allegedly defective dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs which may have resulted in hearing loss and damage suffered by thousands of U.S. military veterans.
3M was an exclusive supplier of earplugs used in U.S. military combat and operations between 2003 and 2012. The dual-ended design may have been defective and resulted in partial or complete hearing loss for many former service persons. Hearing loss is one of the most common combat injuries and may affect over 800,000 veterans. Symptoms often include ringing or buzzing of the ears, known as tinnitus, but can also affect balance, sleep and mental health.
3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs were discontinued in 2015 and the company agreed to a $9.1 million U.S. Department of Justice whistleblower lawsuit. In April 2019, 3M product liability lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida under Judge Rodgers.
In the footnote referencing difficulty of team selection, Judge Rodgers also wrote “The court encourages counsel who are not appointed to formal roles to meaningfully engage with plaintiff leadership so that the team may draw on your substantial skills and experience for the common benefit of all plaintiffs in this litigation.”