A verdict has been reached in the first of many cases involving military members getting defective hearing protection.
“There (are) 250,000 individual lawsuits filed at this point in the Northern District of Florida,” said Bryan Aylstock from the Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis and Overholtz law firm in Pensacola. They are the firm that is taking the lead in all of these individual suits against 3M, the manufacturer of the Combat Arms version 2 ear plugs that were used by the military from 2002 to 2015.
The plaintiffs in the cases are military members who have suffered hearing loss. The first of those cases has just ended with a verdict against 3M in federal court.
“So, it was three soldiers, all of whom served this country honorably and used these Combat Arms earplugs and suffered hearing damage” said Aylstock. “Collectively they received a little bit more than $7.1 million, which is a tremendous verdict. A lot of that was punitive damages, where the jury found by clear and convincing evidence that 3M’s conduct as it relates to these ear plugs was reprehensible and deserved to be punished. And also a message needed to be sent to others, including 3M, who might try to do this in the future, that this is not an acceptable way to conduct your business.”
This is the first lawsuit in what is called mass-tort litigation, which is different than a class-action suit, where all plaintiffs are represented in one law suit. There are two more already on the docket before Judge Casey Rodgers, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.
“There’s a panel called The Judicial Panel for Multi-District Litigation, and it determined a couple of years ago that Pensacola was the appropriate forum to conduct all of the pretrial activities for all of the cases of this nature.”
3M has already settled with the U.S.military for over $9 million, so the mass-tort litigation is only between the company and individual military members, both active duty and veterans. Aylstock fully expects this verdict to be appealed.
“It will be appealed, and we feel confident that all of the pretrial rulings that Judge Rodgers made, and the trial rulings were appropriate, and the appellate court will also find that they were appropriate.”
Since the verdict there have been no talks of settlement with 3M, so the trials and appeals will continue. Aylstock says he doesn’t know how many rulings for the plaintiffs would bring 3M to the settlement table. Said Aylstock, “It will be as many as it takes.”
The second trial is set to begin on Monday.
May 13th, 2021