All lawsuits pending in federal court against 3M Company for allegedly providing defective combat earplugs to the United States military have been centralized in the Northern District of Florida, per an order issued on April 3, 2019 by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. According to the JPML, these lawsuits—of which there are presently over 600—“involve common questions of fact, and that centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”
Allegations pertaining to the 3M combat earplugs first were revealed in July of 2018 when a previously sealed lawsuit by the federal government against the company was released to the public after 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle claims of “protracted fraud perpetrated upon the military.” More specifically, the government alleged that the 3M “dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs”—which were standard issue in all branches of the Armed Forces between 2003 and 2015—were sold to the government in a knowingly-defective condition and exposed hundreds of thousands of servicemembers to hearing loss or tinnitus. 3M continues to deny these allegations.
Judge M. Casey Rodgers will preside over the consolidated cases from her chambers in Pensacola, Florida. First appointed to the federal bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush, Judge Rodgers served as the Chief Judge for the Northern District of Florida from 2011 to 2018. Of note, Judge Rodgers is also a veteran of the United States Army, having served on active duty from 1985 to 1987. Judge Rodgers is also no stranger to multidistrict litigation as she was appointed to oversee the In re: Abilify litigation which encompassed approximately 2,500 individual lawsuits and, just one month ago, resulted in a confidential settlement.
In the coming weeks, the MDL court is likely to convene its first status conference at which topics such as attorney leadership for both the plaintiffs and defendants may be discussed. Also yet to be determined is whether the court will establish a “direct filing” procedure in which plaintiffs across the United States may join the MDL proceedings.
Veterans who are interested in learning whether they may have a claim pertaining to the 3M combat earplugs should contact a lawyer familiar with the ongoing litigation. If you would like to consult with an attorney about a potential claim involving combat-related hearing loss, you may contact Graham L. Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 929-3600. All consultations are free and confidential.
Graham L. Newman practices complex civil litigation with Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A. in Columbia, South Carolina. He has represented numerous servicemembers—both active duty and retired—in a wide variety of civil matters including the 3M combat earplug litigation.