Posted by : Irvin Jackson
Rather than negotiating settlements to resolve more than 200,000 earplug hearing loss lawsuits, a recent bankruptcy filing details the millions in defense costs 3M Company has continued to incur.
According to recent bankruptcy court filings, 3M Company has incurred more than $450 million in legal costs associated with defending thousands of earplug hearing loss lawsuits being pursued by veterans, and rather than negotiating settlements acceptable to plaintiffs, the company continued to incur an average of about $4.7 million per week over much of last year, pursuing legal strategies which have recently been described as a brazen abuse of the litigation process.
More than 230,000 U.S. veterans are currently pursuing product liability lawsuits against 3M and itâs Aearo Technologies subsidiary, after being left with hearing loss or tinnitus following military service, where they were provided 3M Combat Arms Earplugs as standard issue equipment before deployments between 2004 and 2015. Plaintiffs allege the earplugs were sold to the U.S. government with a known design defect, which left veterans without adequate ear protectors during combat and training exercises.
The Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2) were initially developed by Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M Company in 2008, and the entire Aearo hearing protection business was upstreamed into 3M, which continued to market and sell the defective earplugs to the U.S. government without disclosing known problems that caused them to commonly fall out of the ear canal.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, all lawsuits over hearing loss caused by the military earplugs have been centralized for the past three and a half years before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.
Defense Costs Do Not Include $300 Million in Jury Verdicts Being Appealed
Throughout the litigation, 3M Company has refused to settle hearing loss lawsuits brought by veterans, despite juries awarding at last $366 million in damages at trial. However, those verdicts remain under appeal and have not been paid.
According to a recent Bloomberg News report, 3M Company reported in recent bankruptcy filings that it spent about $47.77 million just on attorneys’ fees and legal costs in the first quarter of 2022, with another $74.5 million in the second quarter, working out to about $4.7 million per week.
Following a series of early bellwether verdicts in the litigation, where different juries painted a very clear picture about the extent of liability the company faces continuing to defend the claims at trial, 3M Company continued to refuse to negotiate an earplug settlement, and instead made the controversial decision last year to place its Aearo Technologies subsidiary into bankruptcy, and decided to pursue a new defense strategy arguing that the multi-billion parent company can not be independently held responsible for hearing loss caused by products it sold and profited from for years.
Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuits
After several months of legal wrangling, in August 2022, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffrey J. Graham rejected a request by 3M to stay the litigation during the bankruptcy proceedings, indicating that cases against 3M Company will continue while the bankruptcy of Aearo technologies moves forward.
Earplug Hearing Loss Litigation Costs
According to the Bloomberg report, defending against earplug hearing loss lawsuits filed by U.S. military veterans has cost 3M a total of $466 million so far, and estimates that resolving the litigation could cost 3M as much as $7 billion before everything is done. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers and injured veterans have made it clear that the amount of any 3M earplug settlement will require substantially more funds.
At nearly every step, 3M Company’s expensive defense strategies have failed to turn the tide in the litigation and actually led to sanctions against the company that prevents it from raising new, contradictory defenses.
Last month, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal civil litigation barred 3M Company from arguing that it was not independently responsible for the earplugs made by its Aearo subsidiary, suggesting that a recent shift in defense strategy was done in bad faith after nearly four years of failing to raise the argument, and the Court described the effort as a “brazen abuse of the litigation process.”
January 2023 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update
While 3M Company was granted the right to pursue an interlocutory appeal of the recent ruling, the Court has ordered the manufacturer to participate in settlement talks to explore a resolution for the claims.
A series of 3M earplug settlement negotiations held in late September were previously described as worthwhile and productive, but reports suggest the company is more inclined to incur millions in legal defense costs than make offers to resolve claims.
If 3M Company fails to convince an appeals court to overturn the trial court’s ruling, it is expected to face a rapidly increasing pace of jury trials nationwide throughout 2023 and 2024. Based on the company’s inability to successfully defend the safety of the earplugs before prior juries, estimates suggest that 3M will likely need to pay substantially more than ten billion dollars to settle the earplug lawsuits.
The post 3M Paying $4.7 Million Per Week in Costs Associated with Earplug Hearing Loss Lawsuits appeared first on AboutLawsuits.com.
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