3M Hit With $110M Verdict In Fla. Military Earplug Bellwether

3M Hit With $110M Verdict In Fla. Military Earplug Bellwether

federal jury on Thursday sided with two service members who say they suffered hearing damage from using 3M earplugs, awarding the men $110 million in damages, the largest verdict in the sprawling multidistrict litigation’s bellwether series to date, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs. The Pensacola federal jury awarded U.S. Army veterans William Wayman and Ronald Sloan each $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages after they experienced tinnitus and hearing loss allegedly stemming from 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs, business owner with Clark Love & Hutson PLLC, Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz PLLC, Ciresi Conlin LLP and Seeger Weiss LLP said in a joint statement. Wayman and Sloan’s attorneys — Shelley Hutson of Clark Love, Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin, Michael Sacchet of Ciresi Conlin and David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss — told Law360 in a statement Thursday that this is the largest verdict in the bellwether process to date in multidistrict litigation that includes nearly 300,000 service members who claim they suffered hearing damage after using the earplugs. “We thank William Wayman and Ronald Sloan for their bravery, service and advocacy on behalf of all veterans who now face preventable hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of defective CAEv2 earplugs,” the legal team said. “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.” Wayman and Sloan’s attorneys said the verdict is part of a “sustained track record” of juries rejecting 3M’s defenses and returning awards of millions of dollars to each bellwether plaintiff. In a statement Thursday, 3M said the verdict comes on the heels of back-to-back verdicts clearing the conglomerate, and that consolidating multiple plaintiffs’ cases into one jury trial can confuse jurors. “While we are disappointed with the verdicts, the overall mixed record in the bellwether process thus far shows that plaintiffs face significant challenges in this litigation and each case must be considered on its own facts and circumstances,” 3M said. “3M’s conduct with respect to the CAEv2 product was consistent with the company’s values and longtime commitment to keeping our U.S. military safe,” the company added. “We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously throughout this litigation.” 3M said it will appeal the verdict. The Thursday win for the plaintiffs came on the heels of consecutive plaintiff losses last month in two other bellwether cases, in which Pensacola juries found that 3M was not liable for the hearing loss of U.S. Army veterans Carter Stelling and Carlos Montero. Thursday’s verdict also comes right after the now-second largest plaintiff win. On Dec. 10, a Tallahassee jury awarded former soldier Theodore Finley $22.5 million, including $15 million in punitive damages, for his hearing loss. The plaintiffs have now prevailed in six of the 11 bellwether cases that have been tried so far. An Army sergeant convinced a jury of 3M’s liability in November and got a more than $13 million verdict. Meanwhile, a three-plaintiff trial in April resulted in a $7.1 million award, an October trial ended with an $8.2 million award for an Army veteran, and a jury in June determined that 3M was mostly responsible for a machine gun operator’s hearing loss and awarded him $1.7 million. 3M beat previous claims in the second, fifth and sixth bellwether trials. Five more trials are scheduled for this year, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said. In the cases, plaintiffs allege 3M and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC supplied CAEv2 earplugs that were defective and did not protect against service-related tinnitus and hearing loss. Meanwhile, 3M argues that the military bears some responsibility for how the earplugs were designed and delivered. Wayman and Sloan are represented by Shelley Hutson of Clark Love & Hutson PLLC, Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz PLLC, Michael Sacchet of Ciresi Conlin LLP and David Buchanan of Seeger Weiss LLP. 3M is represented by Robert C. Brock of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The individual cases are William Wayman v. 3M Co. et al., case number 7:20-cv-00149, and Ronald Sloan v. 3M Co. et al., case number 7:20-cv-00001, both in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The MDL is In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:19-md-02885, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. –Additional reporting by Carolina Bolado, Jonathan Capriel, Hailey Konnath, Cara Salvatore and Nathan Hale. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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