Judge Rejects 3M’s Bid To Retry $50 Million Military Earplug Verdict

A March 2022 jury verdict that awarded a former Green Beret $50 million for his hearing loss and tinnitus will stand after a judge denied 3M’s motion. The military earplug company wanted a new trial or, alternatively, to have the verdict reduced.

Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. issued an order on Oct. 25 saying that plaintiff Luke Vilsmeyer’s trial was “substantially supported” by science and that his testimony was “extremely effective and compelling” in detailing the extent to which his substantial hearing damage negatively impacted his sleep, emotional well-being and his relationship with his wife and children, Law360.com reported.

3M was cleared of fraud by the jury but found guilty for the plaintiff’s product liability and negligence claims.

Vilsmeyer’s case against 3M is one of almost 300,000 lawsuits filed by mostly veterans of the U.S. military. Sixteen bellwether trials have been completed. Juries in 10 of those trials have awarded 13 plaintiffs $300 million. In the remaining six trials, juries have cleared 3M of liability. The Vilsmeyer trial was the 13th bellwether trial over Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2).

In its motion to have the Vilsmeyer case retried, 3M argued that the plaintiff’s hearing damage was mild and treatable. However, Judge Dalton Jr.’s order stated that “Even defense counsel could not help but acknowledge plaintiff’s credibility and demeanor for truthfulness. So the court will not disturb the jury’s evaluation of plaintiff’s testimony and the noneconomic damages caused by his injuries, which are substantially supported.”

3M argued in the motion that the jury was swayed because the plaintiffs mentioned the attacks of 9/11. However, in an opposition brief filed in response to 3M’s motion to have the case retried, the plaintiff argued that 3M did not object to any mention of the attacks on 9/11 and that the attacks were mentioned to provide a timeframe as to when CAEv2 began being sold to the U.S. military by 3M’s subunit, Aearo Technologies, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

3M stated that it would appeal Judge Dalton’s order.

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