What Is the Average Payout for the Military Earplug Lawsuit?
While it is difficult to know how much individual lawsuits based on defective 3M earplugs may be worth, several of the initial trials in this large multidistrict litigation (MDL) have ended with multi-million dollar jury awards. The juries in these cases have been clear that they believe 3M acted in a grossly negligent way and awarded punitive damages accordingly.
What happens next and whether the multinational conglomerate corporation decides to settle the remaining cases out of court remains to be seen. As of January 1, 2022, the case against 3M regarding its Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (CAEv2) is consolidated in MDL No. 2885: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation.
How Much Is the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Payout Per Person?
Until your case goes to trial or 3M offers a settlement with an approved agreement, there is no way to know how much you might receive. Any payout will be based on the facts of your unique case. Still, of the suits that have gone to trial as of January 1, 2022, the average verdict is $5.19 million per claimant. The majority of these awards have consisted of punitive damages.
In addition to several large, decisive victories for plaintiffs, the first 11 trials have also included four defense verdicts. This may be why 3M seems reluctant to settle out of court at this time. The outcomes in the first 11 bellwether cases include:
- A Florida jury awarded three servicemen $7.1 million, including $2.1 million each in punitive damages.
- The second trial was a victory for the defense. The May 2021 verdict concluded there was no way to link the claimant’s hearing damage to their use of 3M earplugs.
- Veteran Lloyd Baker won $1.1 million in June 2021 after suffering hearing damage during artillery training at Fort Lewis, Washington.
- Veteran Brandon Atkins received an $8.2 million award, including compensatory and punitive damages, in September 2021. He wore the Combat Arms earplugs during two tours in Afghanistan and now has hearing loss and tinnitus.
- 3M Company won the verdict in the case filed by Michelle Blum, a twenty-year Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and National Guard veteran, because of weak evidence linking her hearing loss to the earplugs.
- An active-duty military member won a $13.063 million verdict in November 2021. This includes more than $800,000 in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages.
- Joseph Palanki’s lawsuit against 3M ended with a defense verdict. He claimed to have fired weapons while wearing these earplugs but could not prove definitive ties to their role in his hearing loss.
- Christopher Finley received a $22.5 million verdict in the largest award yet, including $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages.
- Carlos Montero lost his case against 3M in December 2021. The jury found that he did not have strong enough evidence to link his hearing loss to 3M’s earplugs.
Two more trials are scheduled to begin in January 2022, with others quickly following. The outcomes of these cases will depend greatly on the strength of evidence and the unique circumstances of the plaintiffs’ injuries. This will be true of future claims, as well.
There is hope that 3M will offer a global settlement soon, which would allow all claimants to receive compensation without going to trial. The severity of their injuries would determine the payout.
How Much Is the 3M Lawsuit Worth?
It is difficult to tell how much a 3M earplugs lawsuit or settlement might be worth. Many factors can affect recoverable damages, including the case’s value and whether the company offers a global settlement. The awards in the winning trials to date have been significantly higher than many thought they would be.
Recoverable damages in a defective product case can vary depending on the expenses and losses experienced, the jury’s take on the defendant’s actions, and other factors. In the 3M earplugs litigation, the injuries suffered are not life-threatening. However, hearing loss, tinnitus, and other ill effects can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. As such, compensatory damages in these cases may include:
- Out-of-pocket medical care caused by the injury
- Treatment from specialists, as necessary
- The cost of implants or other procedures
- Hearing aids and other devices
- Lost wages and reduced ability to earn
- Reduced ability to work if your symptoms affect your career
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish
It is important to note that hearing loss and other symptoms specifically bilateral tinnitus can severely affect quality of life. For example, a 2017 study in the International Tinnitus Journal showed that almost half of all participants with tinnitus experienced anxiety, and a third had major depression. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found a substantial link between the disorder and suicide. Nine percent of women and almost six percent of men with a severe case attempted suicide.
The claimants who have gone to trial have also received punitive damage awards. These are awarded to penalize the liable party in these actions. Juries who have heard the evidence in these cases have been convinced that 3M acted intentionally or particularly carelessly, allowing hundreds of thousands of service members to suffer preventable injuries.
What About Settlements?
In most cases, the military earplug lawsuit payout will likely not come from a jury award. The majority of lawsuits settle outside of court if the plaintiffs receive compensation. In an MDL, this could occur through a global settlement.
Factors that can affect the amount a claimant receives in a settlement include:
- The global settlement offer from 3M
- The severity of the claimant’s hearing damage and how it affects their life
- Other related symptoms
- The strength of the link between the earplugs and injury
- Specific circumstances and facts of the case
How Global Settlements Work
Global settlements in an MDL this large usually work in a specific way, including tiered payouts. This process begins with separating claimants into tiers based on the factors listed above. Then, the defendant will offer a settlement to each tier. The claimants in each tier will then need to discuss the settlement offer with their attorneys and decide if they will accept or reject it.
In general, those in the top tiers receiving the most compensation will likely include claimants with:
- Profound hearing loss
- Bi-lateral, severe tinnitus
- Mobility-limiting balance issues
How Many People Are in the 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
According to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), there were 285,553 pending cases in MDL 2885 as of December 15, 2021. More than 300,000 lawsuits have been filed in all. This MDL is currently consolidated in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida. Judge M. Casey Rodgers is proceeding.
Due to the number of pending actions and varying injury severity in these lawsuits, the case is moving forward with a large number of bellwether trials. As of January 1, 2022, 11 trials have been held. While the details differ somewhat from case to case, the lawsuits against 3M generally accuse the company of:
- Designing defective earplugs that do not effectively seal the ear canal
- Marketing and distributing the earplugs despite knowing about the design flaws that make them difficult or impossible to use properly
- Not warning soldiers and other consumers that hearing damage and other injuries could occur because of their design
- Failing to provide special instructions to help the earplugs seal, reducing or eliminating injuries
Potential Future Cases in the 3M Earplug MDL
While more than a quarter of a million cases are pending, there may be many more people who suffered hearing loss or other effects from these earplugs. They were standard-issue for many serving in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015. You may recognize the dual-ended earplugs if you trained or deployed during:
- Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011)
- Somalia Operation Ocean Shield (2009-2016)
You may qualify to file a lawsuit and recover a settlement if you have diagnosed conditions related to:
- Hearing loss or damage
- Bilateral tinnitus
- Balance and mobility issues, including vertigo
- Other related symptoms or injuries
You will also need to meet additional criteria:
- Served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015
- Used the 3M Combat Arms earplugs
- Have significant injuries or hearing loss
- Received a diagnosis shortly after your discharge from the military, usually within a couple of years
- Have been honorably discharged or are still an active military service member
How Long Will the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Take?
It is difficult to know how long it could be before a claimant receives a military earplug lawsuit payout. It depends on when 3M decides to offer a reasonable settlement, or the case goes to trial.
The purpose of multidistrict litigation is to help the courts sort through a large number of cases more quickly, keeping the lower courts from becoming clogged with thousands of cases or hundreds of thousands, as they would be with the lawsuits against 3M. An MDL consolidates similar cases for pretrial motions and a handful of bellwether trials.
How Bellwether Trials Work
The outcome of these bellwether cases does not affect the other lawsuits in the MDL, but they often provide insight into potential claim value and success in court. Once these bellwether trials conclude, several things can happen:
- Any remaining cases could go to trial in their original jurisdiction.
- The defendant could offer a settlement.
- Any remaining plaintiffs could drop their cases (usually occurs only if there are overwhelming losses in the initial trials).
While this process is easy to understand and typically moves forward in this manner, there is no way to force a settlement or put a time limit on how quickly these actions may occur.
In the 3M earplug MDL, the court is pushing cases forward as quickly as possible without overwhelming lower courts. This includes preparing groups of 500 plaintiffs at a time for trial. These cases will move forward, with an additional 500 lawsuits going to trial every few months until there is a settlement offer, or they all go before a judge and jury.
When Will the 3M Lawsuit Be Settled?
While the MDL process continues to move forward, most people expect 3M to offer a tiered global settlement at some point. The costs continue to add up for the corporation. Despite being a multinational conglomerate corporation, 3M would have to pay trillions in court awards alone if individual case outcomes continue as they have in the initial 11 bellwether trials.
There is no way to know when 3M might offer a settlement in this case, but it is apparent how jurors feel about the company’s role in service members’ injuries. Verdicts in cases with strong links between hearing loss and using these earplugs have included sizable punitive damage awards. This shows the juries believe:
- 3M acted in a particularly negligent way.
- The company misled the military and service members into trusting their defective product.
- The victims deserve justice above the previous court success by the military.
- Awarding large punitive awards is the best option for penalizing the company.
- At least one case (Finley v. 3M) awarded punitive damages based on evidence showing 3M committed fraud “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
MDL 2885 is still underway. This means you could still take legal action if you suffered hearing loss or other concerns after using these Combat Arms earplugs. You may be eligible to seek and secure monetary damages based on your injuries and their lasting effects.
Consult a Military Earplug Lawsuit Attorney
Attorneys seeking military earplug lawsuit payouts for service members are offering free case consultations. You can speak with a Mass Tort Lawsuit lawyer about your injuries and options at no cost to you or your family. In addition, they handle these cases on a contingency basis, so there are no upfront fees.
Call 1.844.448.6787 to learn more.