3M Loses Combat Earplug Defect Trial in Last of Test Cases

June 19, 2021, 10:42 AM

A U.S. Army veteran who alleges he used ineffective earplugs made by 3M Co. and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC was awarded $1.7 million in damages from the companies for his hearing loss and tinnitus, a federal jury in Florida decided Friday in the third and last case of a round of test trials.

The jury split liability on Lloyd Baker’s failure to warn claim between the parties, finding 3M 62 percent liable and Lloyd Baker 38 percent.

Baker, like three veterans who collectively won about $7 million in the first trial, prevailed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

The bellwether trials are part of consolidated litigation over the earplugs, encompassing about 200,000 claims, many only “administratively” filed in a placeholder arrangement. The plaintiffs are current and former members of the military, together with some civilians, who allege they developed hearing loss and tinnitus.

“We are humbled by the bravery and courage shown by servicemembers like Lloyd Baker not only for their service to our country, but also for standing up against 3M on behalf of all the veterans who now face preventable hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of the CAEv2 earplugs,” Baker’s counsel Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC told Bloomberg Law Friday via email.

“We plan to hold 3M fully accountable for the damage they have caused to those who served our nation,” Aylstock added.

“3M believes the CAEv2 product is and always has been safe and effective to use, and on Friday, a jury agreed that the product was not defective,” a 3M representative said Friday via email. “We are exploring our appellate options with respect to the remainder of the jury’s verdict,” the company said.

The trials are intended to provide some measure of the strength of the plaintiffs’ claims and 3M’s defenses, and are often used to value the overall litigation for potential settlement purposes.

Plaintiffs’ counsel includes Seeger Weiss LLP; Tracy & Fox Law Firm; Clark, Love & Hutson PLLC; and Ciresi Conlin LLP.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Moore, Hill & Westmoreland PA; and Dechert LLP represent the defendants.

The case is In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Prods. Liab. Litig. (Baker v. 3M Co.), N.D. Fla., No. 7:20-cv-00039, verdict 6/18/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com

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