3M Co. lost the first lawsuit to go to court over the safety of earplugs, which it sold to the military for years, a federal jury on Friday awarded $ 7.1 million to three veterans and found the company did not warn of deficiencies in the product.
More than 230,000 service members, veterans and others have filed claims accusing 3M earplugs of causing hearing loss. The various yellow and green connectors used widely by the U.S. Army and other branches were designed to block noise completely if placed in one direction, while the plugs in the opposite direction would let nearby voices in, but still protect your ear from harmful ballistic noises.
Minnesota-based 3M has stood by the safety of the earplugs, which it stopped selling in 201
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Advocates for the veterans said: “The proof is clear: 3M knew their earplugs were defective, yet they allowed our service members to suffer these life-changing injuries.” The jury’s verdict after a five-week trial in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla. The lawsuit, along with lawsuits scheduled to take place in May and June, is intended to help shape the outcome of the tens of thousands of other claims that have been consolidated in Florida court through a process known as multi-district lawsuits. Jury judgments can help set benchmarks for conciliation negotiations or provide support for a company’s strategy to continue to defend itself against the allegations.
The jury on Friday awarded each of the three veterans $ 2.1 million in punitive damages plus recovery for medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering.
The number of plaintiffs in the earplug far exceeds those who sue over alleged damages from any other product or substance, including herbicide, baby powder and blood thinners.
Complainants claim that 3M knew for years that the second version of its Combat Arms Earplugs tended to loosen imperceptibly and leave more sound than specified. They claim that 3M did not give the military the proper instructions on how to get the earplugs to seal tightly.
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The company has said that the design of the earplugs reflected the features requested by the military and that the US government not only had input into the creation of the product but also was responsible for training soldiers in how they were used properly.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys began focusing on finding earplug users following a 3M solution in 2018, agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which the company agreed to pay $ 9.1 million without admitting any responsibility for resolving claims that it did not revealed defects in the product.