A federal jury in Florida awarded two U.S. Army veterans $110 million for their hearing loss, allegedly caused by 3M’s defective Combat Arms Earplug version 2 (CAEv2), which was the only hearing-protection device issued to the U.S. military from 2003 until 2015.
The decision was reached Jan. 27 in Pensacola and was the 11th 3M military earplug trial to reach a verdict. Veterans Ronald Sloan and William Wayman were each awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages, Reuters reported.
The $110 million award is the largest thus far in the sprawling multi-district litigation (MDL), which is the largest federal mass tort in U.S. history, combining claims of nearly 300,000 service members—mostly veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Juries continue to find that 3M's earplugs were defective and that they are responsible for causing irreparable hearing damage to those who served our country," plaintiffs' lawyers said in a statement, per Reuters.
Veterans who have filed claims against 3M accuse the company of providing the military with defective earplugs that caused them to develop irreparable hearing loss. 3M has countered those claims by arguing that the military bears some of the responsibility for the design of the dual-ended earplugs.
3M has lost six of the 11 test trials, each of which has resulted in multi-million verdicts. The previous largest plaintiff verdict was $22.5 million, awarded Dec. 10, 2021 to U.S. Army vet, Theodore Finley.
In addition to the Sloan and Wayman’s case, the first bellwether trial involved more than one plaintiff. That trial, held in April 2021, returned a $7.1 million verdict for three U.S. Army vets.
More recently, juries had returned verdicts for 3M in the previous two trials. 3M said in a statement it would appeal the Sloan and Wayman decision.
Five more 3M military earplug trials are scheduled for 2022, according to plaintiff’s attorneys.
Former U.S. military members became aware of the connection between their hearing damage and 3M’s CAEv2 after a 2018 whistleblower lawsuit was filed, in which Moldex-Metric, Inc, on behalf of the U.S. government, accused 3M and the company it acquired that originally manufactured CAEv2 —Aearo Technologies, Inc.—of knowing that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. 3M settled the lawsuit with the Justice Department for $9.1 million.