Judge rejects 3M’s government contractor defense

In an order filed on Friday, July 24, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ruled that 3M cannot use the government contractor defense as grounds to dismiss the thousands of lawsuits brought by former U.S. service members against the multinational corporation. The lawsuits allege that 3M knowingly sold faulty CAEv2 ear plugs to the U.S. military between 2003 and 2013, causing hearing damage more than 800,000 veterans.

Judge Rodgers, who presides over the “In Re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation” MDL in the Northern District of Florida, found that “there is no evidence that the Army ‘actually participated in discretionary design decisions, either by designing [the CAEv2] itself or approving specifications.” Moreover, “there is no evidence—none— that the Army prohibited [3M] from warning of alleged dangers inherent in the use of the CAEv2.”

This is a meaningful milestone for the plaintiffs. “3M’s own internal emails and testimony show how the company was aware its earplugs were defective, failed to inform the military, and then joked about how they profited from this deception,” said co-lead counsel and Seeger Weiss LLP founding partner Christopher A. Seeger in a statement with Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz PLLC and Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson PG. “We look forward to trial so that veterans can finally hold 3M accountable for the permanent, life-altering hearing damage they suffered due to the company’s negligence and callous disregard for our troops’ safety.”

The CAEv2 earplugs, manufactured by 3M and predecessor Aearo Technologies, were too short to be inserted properly in some users’ ears. Over time, they could slowly but imperceptibly loosen and fail to provide the intended noise cancellation. 3M discontinued the earplugs in 2015.

The 3M earplug litigation is one of the largest MDLs in U.S. courts, with the first bellwether trial scheduled to begin in April 2021. 3M agreed to pay more over $9 million to settle similar allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice in June 2018.

Veterans who used 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs during military action and who suffered hearing loss, have severe tinnitus, or experience other hearing-related problems may be eligible for compensation. Seeger Weiss LLP can help determine whether you have a case. Call us today at (866) 817-1927 to speak with our 3M earplugs attorney team.


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