Judge Orders Mediation Talks in 3M Earplug MDL

In order to prevent district courts from being overwhelmed with 3M military earplug cases, the judge overseeing the nation’s largest multidistrict litigation in U.S. history has ordered 3M and plaintiffs’ attorneys to begin mediation talks next month.

The order, issued June 10 by U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers, stated that the MDL is at a “critical juncture,” Law360.com reported. After 16 bellwether cases involving 19 plaintiffs have been tried, Judge Rogers implied that all the necessary evidence has been presented to predict the outcome of future litigation.

“At this stage, there can be no reasonable dispute that the litigants in this MDL have more data points about individual claims, and the broader whole, than any other litigants in the country,” Judge Rodgers wrote, adding that district courts will be burdened by the ongoing litigation if no settlement is reached, with over 230,000 cases with hearing damage claims still outstanding.

Nearly 300,000 plaintiffs, mostly U.S. military veterans, filed lawsuits against 3M over the company’s allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplug version 2 (CAEv2).

Under Judge Rodgers’ previous orders, the second phase of the MDL would try 500 cases at a time, which would send approximately 2,500 cases to each of the 94 U.S. district courts.

“An enormous amount of time and resources will be required to accomplish this endeavor, not just from this court but from the entire federal judiciary,” wrote Judge Rodgers, who appointed a dispute resolution attorney to help reach a settlement.

The parties in the 3M MDL must begin to meet by July 15, according to Judge Rodgers’ order.

In the 16 completed bellwether cases, juries have found 3M 100% liable for hearing damage in nine cases, partly responsible in one case, and have cleared the company of liability in the remaining six cases. Juries have awarded 13 plaintiffs in the bellwether trials $300 million in damages.

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