Veteran Awarded $2.2 Million in 3M Earplug Trial

A jury in a Florida federal court found that defective military earplugs sold by 3M and its subsidiary, Aearo Technologies, were responsible for a U.S. Army veteran’s hearing damage and awarded the former soldier $2.2 million, Bloomberg Law reported.

The verdict for Jonathon Vaughn, reached April 29 in Gainesville and presided over by Judge Stephen D. Grimberg of the Northern District of Georgia, handed 3M its ninth trial loss in 15 bellwether trials. Nearly 300,000 defective Combat Arms Earplug version 2 (CAEv2) cases are pending in what is believed to be the nation’s largest class action in history that has been assigned to federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).

In 2007, 3M acquired CAEv2 earplugs from Aearo Technologies. The earplugs were supplied to the U.S. military from 2003 until 2015 and were the only earplugs available to U.S. military personnel until 2012.

In 2016, a competitor earplug maker, Moldex-Metric, Inc., filed a whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of the government against 3M, which alleged that the company and its predecessor, Aearo, knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military. 3M settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $9.1 million in 2018. Many veterans were unaware that their hearing damage was linked to the imperceptibly loose-fitting earplugs until after the whistleblower lawsuit was filed.

According to Bloomberg Law, a joint statement from lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the MDL stated, “It is clear 3M’s defenses — whether in the courts, to investors, or the public — are unconvincing and without merit.”

Bloomberg Law also received a statement from 3M announcing that the company plans on appealing the decision. “We were prevented from presenting relevant evidence to the jury, and we will address that issue, among others, in our appeal of today’s verdict,” the statement read.

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