In Protracted Mass Tort Battle, 3M Loses A Bellwether Case
July 1, 2021
A jury found 3M Co partially liable for the hearing loss of a plaintiff army veteran, in the third of three “bellwether” cases concerning 3M ear plugs that were used by the U.S. military for years. A Reuters report identifies this matter as the largest consolidated federal mass tort in U.S. history, with more than 230,000 claims pending. Hearing loss, according to government data from 2015, is the most common of all service-related disabilities. The plaintiff in this case alleged $1.7 million in damages, but the jury found the company only 62 percent liable, with 38 percent liability put on the plaintiff. The company’s share was not based on any alleged defect in the widely used “Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2,” but rather on failure to warn about the limits of the protection it affords. This decision, in a federal district court in Florida, was the third of three agreed-upon bellwether cases, meant to test the strength of the respective litigants’ cases in order to facilitate settlement. Per the agreement, this case was selected by plaintiff attorneys. In first bellwether case, plaintiffs also had a victory, but in May, in a case whose plaintiff was selected by the company, 3M prevailed.
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