The federal judge overseeing 3M Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (CAEv2) multidistrict litigation (MDL) has ordered a pause in mediation efforts between the 3M Corp. and more than 200,000 plaintiffs who claim their hearing damage was caused by faulty military-issued earplugs that 3M formerly supplied to the government.
U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers said in an order Jan. 18 that settlement efforts were at a clear impasse due to the fact that despite seven months of formal mediation talks, not a single CAEv2 claim has been settled. Judge Rodgers also referenced 3M’s lack of desire to reach a settlement based on the fact that the company is trying to resolve the nation’s largest MDL in history via Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeds for its subunit, Aearo Technologies, the original manufacturer of CAEv2, which 3M acquired in 2008 for $1.2 billion.
"In light of the parties' seemingly intractable positions, the court concludes that further formal mediation proceedings in the MDL would be unproductive at this time," Judge Rodgers said via Law360.
The CAEv2 MDL was formed in 2019. In 2021 and 2022, 16 bellwether jury trials were held, with juries finding 3M liable for plaintiffs’ hearing damage in 10 trials. In those 10 trials, 13 plaintiffs were awarded $300 million in damages. Even as the bellwether trials were taking place, Judge Rodgers noted in the order that “fruitful” settlement talks were being conducted and that a settlement master had been appointed in June 2022, when both parties indicated that they were committed to reaching an "efficient, equitable and expeditious" settlement.
Although Judge Rodgers sanctioned 3M for acting in bad faith for its controversial subunit bankruptcy plan, her order placed partial blame on plaintiffs, stating that they had "categorically [rejected] any bankruptcy-only resolution.”
Judge Rodgers stated that considering the fact that CAEv2 litigation will likely be ongoing for years, she hopes the settlement mediation talks will get back on track.