Manufacturing giant 3M is set to settle almost 260,000 cases filed by both active and retired members of the US Military after losing their hearing following the use of the company’s Combat Arms earplugs.
Currently, sixteen of these cases have already gone to trial, and 3M / Aearo have lost ten. Approximately $265 million in payouts have been awarded to thirteen of the known plaintiffs.
It is expected that 3M will pay an additional $6.01 billion in settlements to the remaining plaintiffs after it failed to bring the said lawsuits to a bankruptcy court, a move which they’d hoped would decrease its overall liabilities. The aforementioned amount will be paid out in increments throughout a five-year period.
3M announced its plan to settle the cases on Monday, August 28th, just two months after it announced that it had come to an agreement worth $10.3 billion with several public water systems following reports that the company was a major contributor to the pollution of public waterways.
The Root of the Matter
Between 2003 and 2015, the different branches of the US Military Services used Combat Arms earplugs for training, as well as active combat in the Middle East.
Those earplugs were made by Aearo Technologies, a 3M subsidiary that it bought into in 2008. Despite going through all the legal paperwork, plaintiffs claim that the company failed to give proper instructions for using the earplugs to end users, thus leading to hearing damage in varying degrees.
Those familiar with the case add that Aearo Technologies likewise failed to disclose potentially hazardous design flaws and also submitted falsified test results.
Since the cases against the company were initially filed in 2019, Aearo has filed for bankruptcy as of July last year. However, a bankruptcy judge dismissed Aearo’s filing in June of this year, citing the lack of proof regarding the company’s financial incapacity.
3M pledged around $1 billion to settle any standing liabilities resulting from the Combat Arms cases.