3M Co. lost the first lawsuit over the safety of earplugs it sold to the military for years, with a federal jury on Friday awarding $ 7.1 million to three veterans and finding that the company had not warned of product defects.
More than 230,000 servicemen, veterans and others have filed lawsuits accusing 3M earplugs of causing hearing loss. The various yellow-green plugs, widely used by the U.S. military and other branches, are designed to completely block out noise if placed in one direction, while in the opposite direction, the plugs let close voices in, but still protect the ear from harmful ballistic noises.
The Minnesota-based 3M upholds the safety of the earplugs it stopped selling in 201
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Veterans’ attorneys said: “The evidence is clear: 3M knew their earplugs were defective, but they still allowed our employees to suffer these life-changing injuries.” The jury’s decision comes after a five-week trial in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla. The procedure, along with the trials to be held in May and June, is intended to help shape the outcome of tens of thousands of other lawsuits that have been consolidated in a Florida court through a process known as multidistrict litigation. Jury decisions can help set criteria for negotiating a dispute or provide support for the company’s strategy to continue to defend itself against claims.
On Friday, the jury awarded each of the three veterans $ 2.1 million in punitive damages, plus reimbursement for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.
The number of ear plug applicants far exceeds those who sue for alleged harm from any other product or drug, including weed killers, baby powder and blood thinners.
Plaintiffs allege that 3M has known for years that the second version of its Combat Arms earplugs tends to loosen imperceptibly and make more sound than specified. They claim that 3M did not give proper instructions to the military on how to make the earplugs close tightly.
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The company said the design of the earplugs reflected features that the military had requested, and that the U.S. government was not only involved in creating the product, but was also responsible for training soldiers on how to use them properly.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys began focusing on finding earplug users following a 3M agreement reached in 2018 with the US Department of Justice, in which the company agreed to pay $ 9.1 million without taking any responsibility. to resolve claims that it did not reveal any defects in the product.