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3M Subsidiary Files for Bankruptcy in Bid to Resolve Earplugs Claims

Riddle Brantley LLP   |  July 29, 2022   |  

3M Aims to Resolve Defective Earplugs Claims Through Bankruptcy Filing

3M is attempting to resolve hundreds of thousands of defective earplugs injury claims with a subsidiary bankruptcy filing.3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies has begun filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as litigation for more than 100,000 claims against their Combat Arms Earplugs remains pending.

The massive onslaught of 3M earplug lawsuits against 3M and Aearo Technologies was brought by former U.S. Army service people who claim that a design flaw in the Combat Arms earplugs led to veterans suffering irreversible hearing damage, including heaing loss and tinnitus.

JANUARY 2022 UPDATE: Due to fast-moving developments in this litigation, Riddle & Brantley can no longer accept additional 3M earplug claims. We anticipate that a global settlement may be on the horizon — please stay tuned to our website for the latest updates as more information becomes available.

“Why is Aearo Technologies Filing for Bankruptcy?”

3M’s subsidiary Aearo Technologies is filing for bankruptcy in order to limit potential losses associated with the hundreds of thousands of claims against the company. With a backlog of more than 100,000 claims and millions of dollars of damages already awarded to plaintiffs, it seems likely that 3M is looking for the fastest, least expensive way out.

Aearo Technologies voluntarily began the Chapter 11 filing and is seeking court supervision to help the company establish a trust that would resolve all the pending claims without continued litigation.

In addition to the more than 100,000 claims already filed, there are another 120,000+ claims still waiting. The overwhelming number of cases could take years to litigate one by one and result in significantly higher total damages for 3M. These factors likely influenced 3M and Aearo’s decision-making concerning the bankruptcy filing.

According to a statement by 3M, “the well-established chapter 11 process is intended to achieve an efficient and equitable resolution, reduce uncertainty, and increase clarity for all stakeholders while reducing the cost and time that could otherwise be required to litigate thousands of cases.”

Why is 3M Being Sued?

3M is being sued for damages related to the company’s Combat Arms earplugs for military service members that were made to protect their hearing while still allowing them to hear spoken commands. The earplugs have an alleged design flaw that could allow damaging sound levels to penetrate, potentially causing long-term, irreversible hearing damage.

Injured plaintiffs and their attorneys have also alleged that 3M knew about the issue and took inadequate steps to inform the U.S. military and service members, and also failed to improve the product.

Recent Verdicts in 3M Earplug Trials

The results of initial “bellwether” trials concerning the 3M earplugs have been mixed. While 3M faces millions of dollars in damages already awarded, it has also won several high-profile trials.

In one recent case, a federal judge slashed a $55 million jury award given to a U.S. Army veteran William Wayman, reducing his award to just $21.7 million. However, this was a small victory for 3M as millions have already been awarded to claimants in a series of bellwether cases that have taken place over the last few years.

There have been a number of large verdicts in these bellwether trials. Veteran Ronald Sloan was awarded $55 million in damages in the same trial as veteran William Wayman, while another retired U.S. Army service member, James Beal, received $77.5 million in a separate trial. All in all, the total damages awarded in the bellwether trials comes to just under $300 million, a potentially massive blow for 3M — and one that likely motivated this week’s bankruptcy filing.

Private claims are also not the only legal actions 3M has had to contest over the allegedly faulty earplugs. In 2021, the company was forced to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act with the Department of Justice for $9.1 million. Under the terms of the settlement, 3M did not admit negligence or wrongdoing.

3M’s Response to Earplug Trial Losses

Throughout these trials, 3M has refused to accept liability for the damages the earplugs allegedly caused. However, this latest bankruptcy filing is an indication that based on the outcome of the bellwether trials, 3M believes it is unlikely it will be able to continue to fund litigation and jury-awarded settlements.

The company appears to be refocusing to work directly with claimants to determine settlements through the bankruptcy filing.

“Will the Bankruptcy Filing Affect My 3M Earplugs Claim or Lawsuit?”

The impact of 3M’s Aearo subsidiary’s bankruptcy filing on plaintiffs’ claims is yet to be determined.

The court has awarded Aearo Technologies a three-week pause on in-progress litigation as the first step in the bankruptcy proceedings. Beyond that, there are many questions left unanswered as to how the bankruptcy filing will affect litigation that is already in progress. According to Reuters, a judge overseeing the MDL has already “questioned whether the bankruptcy was filed in good faith.”

“If you’ve suffered hearing damage potentially due to defective 3M military earplugs, now is the time to file a claim for compensation.”

Gene Riddle, attorney, 

Do You Have a Claim?

"By far the best law firm that actually cares about helping veterans." - B.F., clientJANUARY 2022 UPDATE: Due to fast-moving developments in this litigation, Riddle & Brantley can no longer accept additional 3M earplug claims. We anticipate that a global settlement may be on the horizon — please stay tuned to our website for the latest updates as more information becomes available.

If you have a claim against 3M for hearing damage potentially caused by allegedly defective Combat Arms earplugs, the attorneys at Riddle & Brantley are here to help.

Give us a call at 1-800-525-7111 for a FREE, no-obligation consultation and speak with one of our experienced 3M earplug lawsuit attorneys for a thorough review of your claim. We’ll help you better understand how this bankruptcy filing may affect your case and can help advise you on your best available options for seeking compensation.

The consultation is free and, as always, there are no attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive compensation.

We believe Justice Counts for the brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country, and we are ready to serve them just as they have served us. Please call 1-800-525-7111 and let’s review your claim.