Earplug manufacturer 3M Company’s attempt to shield itself from personal injury lawsuits by declaring bankruptcy has been denied in court. This recent update in the ongoing battle to hold 3M liable for defective products linked to hearing loss is encouraging news for veterans and military service members across the United States.
To date, there are over 230,000 lawsuits nationwide claiming that 3M sold defective ear protection products to the U.S. military. Legal action was first brought against 3M in response to evidence that the company had falsified reports of the Combat Arms earplug’s efficacy and safety—and knowingly mass-produced and sold a defective product to be used to protect combat soldiers’ hearing.
Service members who used the Minnesota-based manufacturing company’s Combat Arms earplugs between 2003 and 2015 began to report symptoms such as full or partial hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and loss of balance. Investigations in early lawsuits against the company uncovered documents showing that 3M was aware of the earplug’s failures as early as 2000, yet continued to produce and market them for military use. Many of the soldiers who suffered the most severe outcomes had worn 3M’s ear safety device in combat, near explosives, and when firing weapons.
Over the past several years, civil action against the 3M conglomerate has culminated in what is now considered the largest single litigation in the nation’s history. In an effort to mitigate the losses associated with these lawsuits, parent company 3M pointed to the bankruptcy of its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC, the developer of the Combat Arms earplugs, as a reason to halt legal proceedings. In the past, several large corporations have been successful in leveraging bankruptcy law to curb an influx of lawsuits and restructure the company’s assets.
However, Judge Jeffrey J. Graham ruled in an Indiana bankruptcy court last month that any bankruptcy protection afforded to Aearo Technologies does not extend to the parent company, leaving 3M open to liability for its alleged involvement in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of faulty products to military entities. Per Judge Graham’s ruling, jury trials may now continue. The court statement ordered that any bankruptcy restructuring on Aearo’s part could proceed in tandem with the lawsuits filed against 3M.
3M and Aearo Technologies have indicated that they intend to appeal the court’s decision. The 3M corporation has reportedly thus far awarded approximately $300 million in financial compensation to injured plaintiffs through a series of lawsuits related to the Combat Arms earplugs defects.
Thomas Law Offices is currently representing veterans and military service members who suffered hearing loss as a result of defective earplugs. If you are one of thousands across the country ready to obtain justice, contact our law firm to learn more about how to take part in a 3M Combat Arms earplugs lawsuit.