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3M Jury Renders Largest Earplug Verdict for Individual Veteran

May 20, 2022, 6:16 PM

3M Co. owes an Army veteran $5 million to compensate him for his hearing loss and tinnitus, along with $72.5 million in punitive damages, a federal jury in Florida decided Friday in the latest trial over allegedly ineffective combat earplugs.

James Beal’s proceeding was the 16th test trial in consolidated litigation over 3M unit Aearo Technologies LLC’s Combat Arms version 2 earplugs in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Juries in bellwether trials so far have awarded service members nearly $300 million, lead plaintiffs’ counsel said in an emailed statement. They are Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC; Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson GP; and Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP. “It is clear 3M’s defenses—whether in the courts, to investors, or the public—are unconvincing and without merit,” they said.

3M said it would appeal. “As in previous bellwether trials, we were prevented from presenting crucial evidence to the jury, and we will address that issue, among others, in our appeal,” it said in an emailed statement.

“We disagree with the punitive damages awarded in this case,” it said. “3M’s conduct with respect to the CAEv2 product was consistent with the company’s values and longtime commitment to keeping our U.S. military safe. 3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world, and their safety is our priority,” the company said.

Service members have had 12 wins in nine trials before this one, and 3M and Aearo have won six.

Ciresi Conlin LLP also represented Beal. Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Dechert LLP, Blackwell Burke PA, and Moore, Hill & Westmoreland PA represented the defendants.

The case is Beal v. 3M Co., N.D. Fla., No. 7:20-cv-00006, verdict 5/20/22.

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; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com