On January 27, 2022, a Pensacola jury awarded a $110 million verdict to U.S. veterans Ronald Sloan and firm client William Wayman in the 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation – the largest consolidated federal mass tort in U.S. history. Seeger Weiss partner David Buchanan served as lead counsel for Mr. Wayman as well as co-lead trial counsel in the consolidated trial. The verdict is the largest thus far out of the 11 trials to take place to-date.
The three-week trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola before Judge M. Casey Rodgers. Mr. Wayman and Mr. Sloan each served in the Army over two decades with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both suffered from bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing damage caused by 3M’s defectively designed CAEv2. The jury awarded each of them $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages.
“Will and Ron each served their country with distinction for 20 years,” said Buchanan. “Will, an Army Ranger and Blackhawk medevac pilot, and Ron, a Master Sergeant and tank commander, chose service and sacrifice over themselves. For its part, 3M chose sales over the safety of Will, Ron, and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians who used the Combat Arms Earplug. Due to 3M’s defective product and concealments, after leaving the military Will and Ron were left with tinnitus and hearing damage that has separated them from their families and lives far more than any deployment ever did.”
Joining Buchanan on the trial team from Seeger Weiss was partner Parvin Aminolroaya, associates Caleb Seeley and Maxwell Kelly, and paralegals/legal assistants Charles Bachmann, Oneil Bryan, Sabrina Tyjer, Leslie Kramer, and Robert Hrouda. “Cases of this magnitude require outsized resources, and we’ve got the talent and depth to go toe-to-toe with the best the defense bar has to offer,” added Buchanan. More broadly, the trial team was comprised of co-lead counsel Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz; together with Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson GP, Michael A. Sacchet of Ciresi Conlin LLP, and several talented attorneys and legal assistants from their firms.
Buchanan also serves as co-chair of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and chair of the Discovery Subcommittee in the multidistrict litigation, which consolidates nearly 300,000 claims by servicemembers and veterans who claim that 3M’s defective earplugs caused hearing loss and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears that often accompanies hearing loss. Buchanan also served as co-trial counsel for Lloyd Baker in the third bellwether trial, which saw a jury verdict of $1.7 million on behalf of the Iraq veteran. Seeger Weiss founding partner Christopher Seeger is co-lead counsel for the litigation.
The Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2) were manufactured by 3M and their predecessor Aearo Technologies and were used by the U.S. Army between 1999 and 2015. The earplug was intended for use by servicemembers seeking protection from continuous and impulse noises such as weapon fire and in military combat. After related litigation found that the original testing for the CAEv2 was improper, 3M discontinued the earplugs in 2015 and later agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle claims for civil fraud with the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2019, individual lawsuits were brought by injured servicemembers against the company and were consolidated in the Northern District of Florida.
Hearing loss and tinnitus can affect balance, sleep, and mental health, and is one of the most common service-related disabilities. Seeger Weiss represents thousands of former servicemembers who were injured by 3M’s defective earplug.
One of the nation’s preeminent plaintiffs’ law firms, Seeger Weiss is best known for multidistrict mass torts and class actions in both state and federal court—and especially for taking those cases to trial. With the resources and dedication to take on the world’s largest corporations, the firm has an impressive track record of victories against companies like Merck, Monsanto, and the National Football League—and a reputation for sticking with a case from beginning to end. From offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, the firm has represented over 10,000 individuals, companies, and governments across the United States who have been injured or defrauded on a massive scale. Since its founding in 1999, it has led many of the most complex and high-profile cases in the country: the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, which the Washington Post called “the largest federal court case in U.S. history”; the ongoing “Dieselgate” scandal; the sprawling multistate litigation on behalf of survivors of child sexual abuse; and the history-making Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation.