The 3M earplug lawsuits keep moving forward. On November 15, 2021, the seventh bellwether trial in the ongoing 3M earplug injury litigation ended in a $13 million award in favor of the plaintiff. This jury award has other service members who sustained hearing loss wondering if they, too, could still move forward with a claim.
What to Know About the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Payout
The Florida trial brought by active-duty Army Sgt. Guillermo Camarillorazo is the largest jury award to date in the cases filed over allegations that the CAEv2 tactical earplugs produced by Aearo Technologies LLC (owned by 3M) were defective and allowed service members to suffer hearing loss.
Most of the 3M earplug lawsuit payout was awarded in the form of punitive damages—money the defendant is ordered to pay the plaintiff as punishment for what the jury deems to be exceptionally negligent, outrageous, or heinous conduct. The actual compensatory damages awarded to Camarillorazo, which are intended to cover the plaintiff’s economic and non-economic harms and losses pertaining to the hearing loss injury, amounted to $816,395. The remaining $12.245 million included in the jury award constituted punitive damages.
Following the jury award, 3M announced that the company planned to appeal what it called a “disappointing” loss, according to Reuters. However, as of this trial’s resolution, 3M has so far lost more earplug hearing loss lawsuits than the company has won.
The Facts About 3M Earplug Multidistrict Litigation
As of November 2021, 3M is facing approximately 250,000 claims filed by plaintiffs who are current or former service members and whose injuries involve tinnitus or hearing loss. The majority of the hundreds of thousands of individual claims against 3M have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL)—making this the largest MDL ever—and most of them have been heard in the Northern District of Florida under U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers.
However, the two most recent trials, involving Camarillorazo and Joseph Palanki, were heard by Northern District of Alabama Judge Liles Burke in Pensacola and Northern District of Florida Chief Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee, respectively, according to Reuters.
Aearo Technologies LLC (owned by 3M) discontinued production of CAEv2 tactical earplugs in 2015
Plaintiffs in the 3M earplug lawsuits have alleged that the dual-sided tactical earplugs were defective, failing to protect the ears of service members who used them in the field between 2001 and 2015. While 3M has not confirmed any truth in these allegations or recalled the earplugs, the company discontinued making the product in 2015. Additionally, 3M paid the Department of Justice a $9.1 million settlement in 2018 over allegations that the company both sold the military defective earplugs and failed to warn the military of the defect, but 3M was not required to admit liability as part of the terms of this settlement.
So far, plaintiffs have won four of the seven bellwether trials that have taken place as of mid-November 2021:
- Lewis Keefer, Luke Estes, and Stephen Hacker, April 2021, $7.1 million combined (read more from The Wall Street Journal)
- Lloyd Baker, June 2021, $1.7 million (read more from the Daily Hornet)
- Brandon Adkins, October 2021, $8.2 million (read more from Reuters)
- Guillermo Camarillorazo, November 2021, $13 million (read more from Reuters)
The bellwether trials 3M has won, so far, include:
Bellwether trials in this litigation are ongoing, with nine additional trials scheduled to take place by the end of May 2022 (as of mid-November 2021).
What to Do If You Think You Have a 3M Earplug Case
If you are an active-duty service member or a veteran and you served during the time period when the allegedly defective earplugs were in use, you may wonder if you have a case.
Current and former service members who have been diagnosed with hearing loss may be entitled to compensation and should consult a 3M earplug lawsuit lawyer as soon as possible to learn about their options. An attorney can investigate your situation, including whether it can be proven that defects in 3M earplugs are the cause of your hearing damage, and help you understand your legal rights and options at no charge.
What should you do if you haven’t been diagnosed with hearing damage? Legally, you can only sue for the damages that actually happened, not what could have happened, so you don’t have a case if you don’t have damages. However, just because you don’t have a formal diagnosis yet doesn’t necessarily mean that you haven’t sustained damages.
Active-duty service members and veterans who have not been diagnosed with hearing loss at this time may still reach out to an attorney if they have concerns, but they should also speak to their doctors. Hearing loss may happen gradually, and people don’t always realize that they have hearing damage when they’re in the early stages of hearing loss. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you notice pertaining to hearing and your ears, because the sooner a hearing condition gets diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated so that it has less of an impact on your life. Be alert for symptoms of hearing loss, like having difficulty understanding words when exposed to background noise, trouble hearing consonants in speech, and frequently needing to turn up volume controls or ask people to speak up or repeat themselves.
If you do want to move forward with a claim—or just consult an attorney about whether you can sue and what the claims process would look like—you should know that lawyers are handling 3M earplug hearing loss lawsuits on a no-win, no-fee basis. Veterans and active-duty service members can receive high-quality legal representation at no upfront cost in their injury claims against 3M.