3M has prevailed in another jury trial over its allegedly defective military earplugs, just days after losing a separate, related legal battle.
A federal jury in Florida ruled in the Maplewood company's favor late Wednesday , rejecting claims by plaintiff Carlos Montero that military earplugs manufactured by 3M failed to protect him during exposure to weapons fire and military machinery during training and combat. Montero, who served in the Army from 1995 to 2018, suffers from bilateral tinnitus and hearing loss.
"We are pleased another jury has sided with 3M and found that the CAEv2 product was safe and effective to use," the company said in an e-mailed statement. "This decision is further evidence that plaintiffs will face significant challenges as they litigate the cases going forward. We will defend ourselves in all upcoming trials."
This latest jury came to the opposite conclusion from a different Florida jury last week over the same product and a similar scenario. That jury awarded the plaintiff, an Army veteran, $22.5 million for the damage caused to his hearing while wearing the earplugs, the biggest monetary judgment yet against 3M in an ongoing legal skirmish over the ear protection.
Federal juries have been sending mixed signals in a handful of so-called bellwether trials over the Combat Arms earplugs, which 3M stopped selling in 2015. Of the nine cases that have gone to juries, plaintiffs have prevailed in five and 3M has prevailed in four. In the five trials won by plaintiffs, 3M has faced judgements totaling about $52.5 million.
"While we are disappointed by the jury's conclusion in this trial, a majority thus far have found that 3M's earplugs were defective and that they are responsible for causing irreparable hearing damage to those who served our country," plaintiff's attorney Bryan Aylstock said in a prepared statement.
3M bought the company that produced the earplugs in 2008 and later settled a government whistleblower lawsuit alleging the previous manufacturer, Aearo Technologies, was aware of dangerous design defects as early as 2000.
The bellwether trials are meant to set precedent and guide possible settlement talks in what may be the largest-ever U.S. mass tort, with some 250,000 veterans and military personnel alleging they suffered hearing loss while wearing Combat Arms earplugs.