When a government contractor sells the government a product that does not work, they are usually subject to large penalties. When this product is one that is used by members of the military as military hearing protection, it can subject the company to additional liability. This liability manifests itself through the form of military hearing protection product liability lawsuits. 3M has recently settled a 3M Earplug lawsuit filed by the government that it made false claims in supplying the military with these military hearing protection combat earplugs. This claim was originally filed by a whistleblower on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Now that the military earplug lawsuit settlement has been entered into, the first 3m Combatarms earplug lawsuits have been filed by former service members against the company for injuries suffered through use of the defective 3m earplugs. There are currently tens of thousands of defective earplug lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Florida.
142,000 military earplug lawsuits filed in Federal Court
- The Multidistrict litigation lawsuit is known as, “IN RE: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation.”
- There are currently 142,527 lawsuits pending (as of Aug 17, 2020) before M. Casey Rodgers (Chief Judge, USDC) in MDL -2885.
Combat arms lawsuit updates
Update- 7/27/20200- “3M Not Entitled to Governmental Immunity In Defending Lawsuit Over Combat Earplugs, Judge Says In the first substantive ruling to come out of the Multidistrict Litigation over allegedly defective earplugs, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers refused to grant summary judgment based on 3M’s government contractor defense.” 3m failed to show “exceptional circumstances” in order to file an immediate appeal. 3M asserted that they were entitled to governmental immunity from civil lawsuits because they operated under a duty to the federal government. United States District Judge Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida denied 3M’s bid to dismiss thousands of lawsuits filed in the MDL. Justice Rodgers determined that 3M’s arguments were effectively bogus by citing a US Supreme Court decision in 1988, Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. “Defendants have identified no authority — none — in which a defendant having no design obligation to the federal government nonetheless enjoyed the benefit of the government’s sovereign immunity pursuant to Boyle.”
4/24/2020- “U.S. combat troops were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with protective earplugs that they may not have known how to fit properly, and some employees of manufacturer 3M Co. didn’t believe soldiers needed to be told how to adjust the devices, according to unsealed depositions by company officials in a mass tort lawsuit. In the depositions, reviewed by Bloomberg Government, 3M officials couldn’t point to documents or calls in which U.S. military representatives were told that the earplugs can imperceptibly loosen. Yet internal memos acknowledged “the existing product has problems unless the user instructions are revised,” according to Elliot Berger, division scientist for 3M’s Personal Safety Division. In addition, Timothy McNamara, 3M’s sales manager for the U.S. Midwest, said he didn’t “believe so,” when asked during his deposition whether soldiers were entitled to know that the way the company tested the earplugs—and achieved a high noise reduction rating—was different than the way service members were instructed to use them. McNamara, who visited military bases on a regular basis, also acknowledged he never shared how to use the earplugs in order to achieve the advertised noise-reduction rating.” Bloomberg Government
4/2/2020- “3M Co has moved to dismiss thousands of lawsuits by service members and veterans alleging it sold defective earplugs to the military, saying their state-law claims were based on a design element mandated by the U.S. Army. 3M in a motion filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida on Wednesday said the military approved precise specifications for the company, a contractor, to follow and took responsibility for training service members how to properly use the earplugs.” Reuters
5/29/19- “On May 22nd Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued Pretrial Order No. 7 naming the leadership for the plaintiffs in the 3M Combat Arms™ Earplugs MDL. Selection was made from among 190 applicants. Bryan Aylstock was named Lead Counsel, supported by Shelley Hutson and Chris Seeger as Co-Lead Counsel. Brian Barr and Michael Burns were named Co-Liaison Counsel. These five lawyers, along with Evan Buxner, Tom Cartmell, Mark Lanier, Roberto Martinez, Paul Pennock, Adam Wolfson and Genevieve Zimmerman will comprise the Executive Committee.”