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3M agrees to pay $6 billion in US military earplug lawsuit settlement

3M agrees to pay $6 billion in US military earplug lawsuit settlement - 3M has agreed to settle $6.01 billion to settle lawsuits brought by U.S. military veterans and service members who claim to have lost their hearing due to the company's earplugs. This was announced by the company and its lawyers for the plaintiffs on Tuesday.

3M

The Justice Now (Aug 30th ): 3M has agreed to settle $6.01 billion to settle lawsuits brought by U.S. military veterans and service members who claim to have lost their hearing due to the company’s earplugs. This was announced by the company and its lawyers for the plaintiffs on Tuesday.

The agreement is a result of the failure of 3M earlier in the year to transfer the lawsuits, which developed into the biggest mass tort lawsuit to date in U.S. history, into bankruptcy court in hopes of the company’s liability being reduced.

Around 240,000 people are likely to be eligible to participate in an agreement, Chris Seeger, an attorney for plaintiffs, announced at the press conference. 3M can abandon the settlement when more than 98% of claimants eligible opt to participate; however, Seeger assured that the threshold will be reached.

The cash will be distributed between 2023 and 2029. The $1 billion amount will come in three-month increments of stock, the company stated in an announcement. The Minnesota-based company claimed it did not acknowledge liability and was confident that the headphones “are safe and effective when used properly.”

“This historic agreement represents a tremendous victory for the thousands of men and women who bravely served our country and returned home with life-altering hearing injuries,” Seeger and his co-lead lawyers, Bryan Aylstock and Clayton Clark, declared in the joint statement.

3M’s shares were higher than 2 percent on Tuesday. Based on earlier reports of a settlement likely, they ended 5.2 percent higher than they did on Monday. Analysts’ estimates of the company’s potential liability in the earplug case could have been up to $10 billion.

Combat Arms Combat Arms earplugs were made by Aearo Technologies, a company 3M purchased in 2008. They were utilized by military personnel of the U.S. military in training and combat from 2003 to 2015, which included their use in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits assert that the company concealed flaws in its design, falsified test results, and did not provide proper guidelines for using the earplugs, which could have caused hearing loss.

The cases were brought together in front of U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in Pensacola, Florida, federal court in 2019. At its peak, the case was responsible for around 30% of federal court cases in the United States.

Of the 16 cases involving earplugs that have been tried, 3M has lost ten approximately $265 million awarded in the total thirteen plaintiffs. The verdicts are included in the $6.01 billion figure.

Aearo filed for bankruptcy in July 2022, and 3M pledged $1 billion to cover its debts from lawsuits involving earplugs.

3M asserted that the mass tort litigation was unfair because Rodgers had obliterated scientific evidence favorable to the company from trials and allowed thousands of “unvetted” claims to swell the court’s docket.

But the bankrupt judge on June rejected Aearo’s bankruptcy in June, stating that Aearo wasn’t in enough financial hardship to justify the default.

The settlement announced on Monday comes one month after 3M announced an unconfirmed $10.3 billion agreement with several U.S. public water systems to settle claims of water pollution caused by poly-fluoroalkyl compounds and per-, also referred to by the name of “forever chemicals.”

The agreement isn’t yet final, but it cleared one obstacle on Monday after the 22 U.S. territories and states have withdrawn their previous objections to the deal.

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