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Federal Judge Blocks Planned Defense in 3M Earplug Lawsuit

A federal judge in Florida has dealt a major blow to 3M by blocking its plans to invoke the government contractor defense in pending litigation over the company’s military-issued earplugs.

The ruling, delivered by U.S. District Court Judge M. Case Rodgers on Friday, July 24, 2020, held that 3M failed to establish the elements of the government contractor defense, which provides liability immunity to government contractors that are sued for injuries resulting from their work under a federal contract.

Although 3M argued that it designed its Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) in close collaboration with the military, Judge Rodgers noted:

  • The earplug’s design already existed without any input from the armed forces; and
  • The U.S. Army never requested a design proposal for the earplugs, and never initiated a competitive bidding process outlining design details for new earplugs from potential contractors.

The decision is the first of substance to come out of the multi-district litigation (MDL) over 3M’s earplugs, which have become the target of thousands of lawsuits brought by veterans and service members who allege 3M knowingly manufactured faulty earplugs.

The lawsuits claim CAEv2 earplugs were too short to properly fit in a user’s ear and provide adequate protection, were prone to coming loose without users’ noticing, and that 3M failed to disclose defects which hampered their effectiveness.

Soldiers allege they suffered considerable losses and sometimes permanent hearing-related disabilities as a result, including:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss;
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus);
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering;
  • Medical bills and future medical expenses;
  • Lost income and earning capacity;

In July of 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly supplying the U.S. government with defective earplugs. Though the government’s FCA case against 3M settled, thousands of lawsuits brought by victims are still pending. Additionally, 3M is attempting to shield itself from claims via bankruptcy.

Questions About 3M Earplug Claims? Call Us Today

Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC has been closely tracking litigation over 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs and is working with U.S. military veterans and current service members who suffered harm and losses as a result of using 3M earplugs in active duty combat and military training exercises.

With extensive experience litigating high-stakes product liability claims and MDLs, our team has the insight and resources required to help the brave men and women of our military seek justice and compensation for their losses.

If you have questions about 3M earplug lawsuits, contact us for a FREE consultation.

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