Jury says 3M owes US Army veteran $50 million in latest earplug trial

3M’s global headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S., is pictured March 4, 2020. Picture taken March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

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  • Former Green Beret receives $50 million verdict
  • Award is one of the biggest in massive multidistrict litigation

(Reuters) – A federal jury on Friday awarded $50 million to a U.S. Army veteran who said combat earplugs sold by 3M Co to the military caused him hearing damage, the second largest verdict to date following hundreds of thousands of lawsuits over the product.

Jurors in Pensacola, Florida sided with Luke Vilsmeyer, who said that after using Combat Arms Version 2 earplugs from 2006 to 2017, mostly during training, he suffered from a permanent hearing loss and severe tinnitus.

He is among more than 280,000 ex-serving military personnel who have sued 3M claiming the company’s faulty combat earplugs damaged their hearing, in what has become the largest federal mass liability lawsuit. of United States history.

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The verdict was comprised entirely of compensatory damages, as punitive damages are not available under the law of the state of Indiana, where the 42-year-old is from. He served in the United States Army from 1999 to 2020, first as a howitzer gunner and later as a Green Beret.

Lead plaintiffs’ attorneys in the litigation – Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz; Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson; and Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss – noted that the case was 3M’s seventh trial loss.

“It is clear that 3M’s defenses – whether in court, to investors or to the public – are unconvincing and without merit,” plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a joint statement.

3M, which was represented by Mike Brock and Brent Rogers of Kirkland & Ellis, said in a statement it was disappointed and would appeal.

“The same issues raised in our previous appeals regarding legal defenses and evidentiary rulings apply to this lawsuit,” the company said.

On appeal in another case, 3M argued that the military was responsible for the design of the product and that the plaintiffs’ claims under state law were nullified due to 3M’s role as a contractor. federal in accordance with government mandates.

Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired in 2008, developed the product. The plaintiffs allege the company hid design flaws, falsified test results and failed to provide instructions for proper use of the earplugs.

The plaintiffs have won more than $160 million combined in six previous landmark lawsuits, including a $110 million award in January to two U.S. Army veterans. Juries sided with 3M in five other trials.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers oversaw the massive litigation and brought in other Florida judges to help preside over the trials. U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton presided over Vilsmeyer’s trial.

The jurors deliberated on Friday in a 13th trial, and a 14th will begin on Monday.

The MDL is In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, US District Court, Northern District of Florida, No. 19-md-2885.

For applicants: Bryan Aylstock, Daniel Thornburgh and Jennifer Hoekstra of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz; Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson; Chris Seeger and Caleb Seeley of Seeger Weiss; and Joseph Messa of Messa & Associates

For 3M: Mike Brock and Brent Rogers of Kirkland & Ellis

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Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nathalie Raymond

Nate Raymond reports on federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at [email protected]

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