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Multistate 3M Defective Earplug Litigation Moves Toward Consolidation


Previous entries of our blog have examined 3M’s allegedly defective earplugs and the resulting injuries that our military service members suffered as a result of using them. As of the date of this blog, veterans and current members of our armed forces have filed over 150 lawsuits across the nation.

Multidistrict Consolidation

On March 28, 2019, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation (JPML) will hear arguments from the respective attorneys of plaintiffs and 3M as to whether defective earplug lawsuits should be consolidated for pretrial proceedings.

Created under an Act of Congress in 1968 – 28 U.S.C. § 1407 – the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is designed to promote judicial efficiency in federal courts by consolidating into one federal district court civil lawsuits that share common questions of fact. Consolidated multidistrict proceedings help save time and resources for courts and the parties by avoiding repetitive discovery issues and preventing inconsistent pretrial rulings.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will evaluate whether consolidation will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the efficient and fair conduct of its related lawsuits.

Here, 3M defective earplug lawsuits share common questions of fact as to whether 3M and its predecessor, Aaero Technologies, designed, manufactured and sold a defective product for use by the U.S. military. From 2003 to 2015, 3M sold millions of Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States to be used by soldiers in live combat and combat training.

3M's alleged defective earplugsThese earplugs were designed to provide soldiers with two-different options for noise cancellation. When users wear the dark side of the earplugs, the earplugs are supposed to act like a conventional earplug by blocking all noise. When worn on the yellow side, the earplugs were intended to block loud noise – particularly that of discharging firearms – while allowing the user to hear quieter sounds, like human speech. Sounds that reach 120 decibels or more can cause immediate hearing damage. Any sound that exceeds 140 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss. A standard military issue AR-15 generates 155 decibels.

In 2016 the U.S. Department of Justice joined a False Claims Act lawsuit against 3M, alleging that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion, would “back out” of the ear canal without always being noticed by the wearer, and failed to pass safety tests. All of the 3M lawsuits filed throughout the country will invariably deal with these alleged defects and 3M’s liability for injuries stemming from said defects.

Consolidating these lawsuits will likely serve the convenience of service members and 3M by taking care of pretrial evidentiary discovery issues together, as opposed to repeating discovery for each case. Court rulings and findings for discovery and other pretrial litigation issues would also be consistent if litigated in one court on behalf of all plaintiffs.

Get Started by Calling Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC

If you served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and/or National Guard between 2003 and 2015 and suffered hearing loss and/or have been diagnosed with Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after using 3M’s dual-ended Combat ready earplugs, you might qualify to pursue a civil claim for damages. To determine your legal rights to receive compensation for your injuries, consult an experienced Louisville personal injury lawyer. Brett H. Oppenheimer and his legal team are devoted to promoting the interests and rights of our U.S. service members to recover a legal remedy for the injuries they suffered as a result of 3M’s alleged negligent or reckless disregard for their safety.

To explore your legal options, call the office of Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC at (502) 242-8877 or contact us online.

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