The first bellwether trial against 3M Co. over defective military earplugs has been scheduled to take place in April. More than 200,000 lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturing company, making this the largest mass tort in history.

Members of all four branches of the military who used the Combat Arms Earplugs anytime between 2003 to 2015 may have suffered hearing issues as a result of the defective plugs.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers set the initial trial date for April 5, rejecting 3M’s argument that grouping the cases together may confuse a jury.

The court has selected four bellwether trial groups consisting of six cases in each group. The five service members and vets were selected for an initial bellwether case pool in multidistrict litigation in which they and 220,000 others say 3M Co. and Aearo LLC supplied “CAEv2” earplugs that were defective and did not protect against service-related tinnitus and hearing loss.

“3M has continued to blame our nation’s military for its defective earplugs, despite the company’s own internal emails and testimony showing they were aware of the defect, failed to inform the military, and then joked about how they profited from this deception,” an attorney for the plaintiffs said. “Through this litigation, we seek to hold 3M accountable for the harm they caused and to seek justice for our service members. We look forward to trials in April 2021.”

This is not a class action lawsuit, so damages will vary greatly and will be based on the specifics of each plaintiff.

3M spokesman Tim Post said in a recent interview that the number of cases is a result of broad marketing appeals from lawyers more than the merits of the case against 3M.

The company statement on its website claims “(3M) worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the CAEv2 product, and its design reflected the direction and feedback of individuals acting on the military’s behalf. We deny this product was defectively designed and caused injuries, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against such allegations.”

 

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