Bloomberg Law
May 29, 2021, 2:32 PMUpdated: May 29, 2021, 5:18 PM

3M Wins Second Hearing-Loss Trial Over Military Earplugs (1)

Martina Barash
Martina Barash

3M Co. and its Aearo Technologies LLC subsidiary aren’t liable for a veteran’s hearing loss and tinnitus, a federal jury in Florida decided Friday night in the second test trial over the companies’ combat earplugs.

Dustin McCombs’ trial followed another in which three veterans got jury awards, including $2.1 million each in punitive damages, for hearing injuries they blamed on the Aearo Combat Arms version 2 earplugs. The combined amount totaled more than $7 million.

“We are pleased with today’s verdict and will continue to vigorously defend ourselves in upcoming trials,” 3M said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg Law. “The Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 product is and has always been safe and effective to use.”

The lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the litigation said Saturday they looked forward to the next trial, slated to June 7.

“We continue to believe that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that 3M knew their CAEv2 earplugs were defective, yet allowed our servicemembers who relied on them for hearing protection to suffer from preventable hearing loss and tinnitus,” attorneys Bryan Aylstock, Shelley Hutson, and Christopher Seeger said in a joint statement.

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, along with some civilians, who allege they developed hearing loss and tinnitus.

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. One more service member’s trial will follow this one in the first round of bellwethers.

The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz PLLC; Heninger Garrison Davis LLC; Gibbs Law Group LLP; and Monsour Law Firm represent McCombs.

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

The case is In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Prods. Liab. Litig. (McCombs v. 3M Co.), N.D. Fla., No. 7:20-cv-00094, verdict 5/28/21.

(New fourth and fifth paragraphs added to reflect comments from plaintiffs' counsel.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Steven Patrick at