How Much Is an Earplug Lawsuit Worth?
Are you one of the many earplug users wondering how much compensation do you get for defective earplugs? If so, this guide will help you. Continue reading to learn the backstory behind the ongoing 3M lawsuits, 2021 and 2022 updates, trial results (including verdict amounts), and much more.
The 3M Company (3M) is currently facing about 300,000 lawsuits for defective earplugs after issuing an estimated 2.2 million earplugs to help protect military personnel from hearing damage in both combat and training exercises. The people suing 3M allege the earplugs did not adequately protect their hearing from munitions and other loud noises during their service.
Background on the 3M Earplug Lawsuits
Initially, a company called Aero Technologies created a dual-purpose earplug. These earplugs were designed to be inserted into the user’s ear in two ways. Inserting them in one direction meant all noise would be completely blocked out. Inserting them the opposite way would allow small levels of sounds to be heard, enabling military personnel to hear each other speak during training and combat situations.
In 2003, Aero Technologies and the U.S. military entered into an agreement. Aero Technologies would supply its “Combat Arms Earplug Version 2.” Although earplugs were issued to all four military branches, the Army received most of them.
In 2008, corporate giant 3M bought Aero Technologies. For the next seven years, 3M shipped hundreds of thousands of earplugs to military personnel across the globe. Locations receiving the earplugs included active combat regions such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Military personnel continued to use the earplugs in both training and active combat situations.
The 2016 “False Claims” Lawsuit
In 2016, Moldex-Metric, the manufacturer of a similar hearing protection product, sued 3M. Moldex-Metric alleged that 3M’s earplugs were defective and allowed potentially damaging sound into users’ ears, leading to hearing loss.
The case was filed as a “False Claims” lawsuit – in other words, the company alleged that 3M knew their product was defective yet continued to sell and distribute it. 3M ultimately settled out of court for $9.1 million in June 2018. Despite the settlement, 3M representatives claimed the company only settled to prevent further bad publicity and insisted it had met the terms of their military contract.
Today, most of the 300,000 earplug lawsuits against 3M have been filed by ex-military personnel. Their suits allege that defects in the 3M earplugs lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, and have severely affected their ability to enjoy life. As the 3M trials march on, both sides have been victorious at times. While 3M has seen some crushing defeats in court, these victories have emboldened the company to press on for more bellwether trials.
What Is the Average Payout for a 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
Of the 3M trials resulting in plaintiff victories so far, the awards have varied quite a bit. As you read some of the results below, remember that no trial result is guaranteed. Each case is unique, and each jury may interpret the facts of the case differently than the next. Ultimately, a victory for one side or the other may come down to the preparation and research done to bring the case to trial.
First Plaintiff Victory in 3M Earplug Lawsuits
On April 30, 2021, plaintiffs claimed their first victory against 3M in court. Three veteran military personnel were awarded $7.1 million to split equally among them. As with other lawsuits against 3M, the plaintiffs alleged the defective earplugs led to hearing loss and tinnitus.
Huge 3M Lawsuit Plaintiff Victory in 2022
The first plaintiff victory in 2022 resulted in the largest verdict so far against 3M. On January 27, 2022, William Wayman and Ronald Sloan won their case against 3M in court. The jury awarded the two veteran servicemen $30 million in damages.
But the biggest part of the story was the punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant to discourage similar behavior in the future. Each serviceman was also awarded $40 million in punitive damages from 3M. This $110 million verdict made headlines as the largest plaintiff victory to date in 3M earplug litigation.
Publicly, 3M maintains its innocence. Company representatives say they plan to appeal their courtroom losses.
Will 3M Settle the Earplug Lawsuits?
Perhaps because of their defense victories in the courtroom, 3M currently has no plans for out-of-court settlements to compensate the other thousands of cases against the company.
The trials for 3M lawsuits – both the trials that have concluded as well as upcoming court dates – are called “bellwether trials.” Companies like 3M that face thousands of similar cases often use bellwether trials to test the waters in open court.
How Bellwether Trials Work
When cases go the defense’s way, the company often decides to continue pushing forward with more cases – all in hopes that continued defense verdicts will take the wind out of the sails of other plaintiffs’ plans to continue with their own lawsuits.
If the company in question sees several significant defeats in court, they may decide to settle the rest of the cases out of court. When a company decides to establish a “global settlement,” it is usually a tactic for the company to avoid further negative publicity and save money on court costs and jury verdicts.
How Global Settlements Work
When a company like 3M faces hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of cases, they are called “mass tort cases.” Cases like these are very complicated. With the high number of plaintiffs and the complexity of medical research necessary to make these cases, it can take years to reach a conclusion.
To seek justice faster, some law firms and their clients avoid the high expense and lengthy wait of filing an individual case. Instead, the plaintiffs may pursue a global settlement, speeding up the timetable for a resolution. Some legal experts estimate a one-year to two-year timetable for a 3M global settlement. However, if 3M sees additional defeats like the recent $110 verdict against the company, their representatives might open settlement talks sooner.
A global settlement is never guaranteed, even after discussions begin. A settlement requires a lot of negotiation by both parties. Plaintiff and defense attorneys have to work out a lot of details. However, settlement talks can result in a financial compensation package for qualifying plaintiffs. To find out if you qualify, speak to an experienced 3M lawsuit lawyer.
3M Earplug Lawsuits in 2021
2021 also saw significant courtroom activity in the ongoing 3M litigation with several plaintiff victories. However, not all decisions were against the company. For example, in May 2021, 3M scored a courtroom victory, which can give the company the resolve to push forward in future cases.
Some noteworthy trial results include:
June 2021 – $1.7 Million Plaintiff Verdict
A Florida district court jury awarded a solder $1.7 million for his case. In their decision against 3M, jurors said they felt the company did not provide adequate warnings to the users of their earplugs. The solder in the case alleged that 3M’s defective earplugs caused him to develop tinnitus.
October 2021 – $8.2 Million Plaintiff Verdict
Brandon Askins, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was awarded $8.2 million after a jury decided his hearing loss was a direct result of his use of 3M earplugs during his military service.
December 2021 – $22.5 Million Plaintiff Verdict
On December 10, 2021, Thomas Finely was awarded a total of $22.5 million for pain and suffering after his hearing loss that stemmed from using 3M earplugs. Mr. Finely was exposed to significant loud noise from munitions, explosions, and other sources during his 2006-2014 tenure in the U.S. Army.
Mr. Finely’s lawsuit alleged that 3M knew its earplugs were defective but sold them anyway. Part of the award ($7.5 million) compensated Mr. Finely for his hearing damage and loss of enjoyment of life. The remaining $15 million were punitive damages intended to punish the company for selling a defective product that did not protect the hearing of its users.
November 2021 – $13 Million Verdict Against 3M
Army sergeant Guillermo Camarillorazo’s case was unique. At the time of his lawsuit, he was still serving in the Army. Backed by compelling medical evidence, the jury awarded Mr. Camarillorazo $818,395 as compensation for his hearing damage and loss of enjoyment of life.
The jury then hit 3M with punitive damages totaling $12,245,925 to punish the company for selling earplugs it knew were defective. In total, Mr. Camarillorazo was awarded $13,062,320.
3M Defective Earplug Settlements
While there is no official timetable or guarantee of a settlement, we can look at past settlements by other companies to estimate if or when 3M will ultimately settle. Looking at recent courtroom verdicts against the company can also provide insight into possible settlement decisions.
Always remember that each case is unique. If you believe that your hearing loss was caused by wearing defective 3M earplugs, your injuries and the details of your experience will likely be different from other cases. Your medical records, years of service, and other information will also need to be thoroughly researched. An experienced mass tort lawyer can offer you guidance and help you understand what your case may be worth.
Below are two noteworthy product liability cases that each involved thousands of plaintiffs and could indicate the possibility of 3M settling in the future.
Bayer Roundup Lawsuits
Roundup, a popular weed killer, was linked to various types of cancer. After several years of lengthy and expensive trials, Bayer finally decided to open settlement talks to resolve its Roundup litigation. In 2020, the company settled its lawsuits with plaintiffs through a global settlement agreement.
As part of the global settlement decision, $10 billion was set aside to compensate victims of exposure to Roundup’s chemical ingredients. The Roundup plaintiffs allege that repeated exposure to the weed killer led to their cancer diagnosis.
Legal analysts estimate the victims may receive between $5,000 to $250,000 to compensate them for their pain and suffering.
Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuits
There are currently about 38,000 cases alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder causes cancer. Dating back to 2014, some plaintiffs have seen significant multimillion-dollar verdicts in the courtroom against the company.
Johnson & Johnson’s situation differs from 3M’s in two fundamental ways. First, Johnson & Johnson is not facing nearly as many lawsuits as 3M. However, cancer undoubtedly has the potential to have more serious consequences than hearing loss for victims.
Legal experts predict that Johnson & Johnson may ultimately negotiate a global settlement, but their compensation packages may be significantly higher than 3M. Yet the Johnson & Johnson situation is still worth considering, especially to see how seriously today’s juries view product liability cases.
Consult an Attorney for Your Defective Earplugs Lawsuit
The victims of faulty products sold by negligent companies often face steep obstacles in court. Large corporations have the resources and funding to hire legal teams that will exploit every possible loophole to get out of compensating victims for their losses.
A lawyer who specializes in product liability cases can help you by addressing the challenges of your specific case, filing all necessary paperwork, and explaining the complex nature of mass tort lawsuits to you. As your advocate, an attorney can fight for the best possible results on your behalf – all for no upfront fees or costs.
Attorney Contingency Fees
In mass tort cases in the United States, attorneys do not receive compensation for their services unless your case is victorious in court or resolved as part of a global settlement. Once your case is resolved, the law firm representing you would receive a percentage of your verdict or settlement.
The Lawyers in our Network Help Consumers Get the Compensation They Deserve
We believe that every victim who has been hurt in some way by a defective product, including 3M earplugs, deserves to seek justice. The lawyers in our network are committed to raising public awareness about defective products sold by manufacturers, drug companies, and others. Reach out to us today, so we can explain your legal options and help you plan your next move.