Federal Juries Give Different Verdicts in Massive 3M Earplug Litigation

Two federal juries have come down on opposite sides in the latest trials over 3M’s combat earplugs, but much more litigation is scheduled for the next 12 months.

Last week, a jury in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida, found in favor of 3M Co., the manufacturer of the Combat Arms Earplugs, version 2, which some soldiers have said failed to protect them and led to hearing loss. The plaintiff in that case was Joseph Palanki.

This week, a jury in Tallahassee awarded a combat veteran, Guillermo Camarillo, more than $13 million – most of it in punitive damages.

3M said it will appeal.

The verdicts are the latest in more than 270,000 claims from around the country against 3M over the double-ended earplugs. Most of the cases have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in Pensacola in what is considered the largest multidistrict litigation in U.S. history.

3M has prevailed in three trials so far, but juries have found in favor of plaintiffs in four other cases, awarding $1.7 million, $7.1 million and $8.2 million, according to news reports and court records.

In October, in what the judge called a test case, a jury in Pensacola cleared 3M of negligence in a claim brought by plaintiff Michelle Blum. The verdict form can be seen here.

3M officials said in a statement that verdict “affirms our confidence in our case and shows that plaintiffs face significant challenges — not just here but in all the trials in this litigation — as each case must be proven on its own facts,” according to Reuters news service.

Attorneys for Blum, including Bryan Aylstock, of Pensacola, also issued a statement. “We continue to believe that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that 3M knew their CAEv2 earplugs were defective yet allowed our servicemembers who relied on them for hearing protection to suffer from preventable hearing loss and tinnitus,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

Several more trials, part of an aggressive bellwether schedule set by the Pensacola judge, are scheduled for coming months, including one set for Nov. 30 in Tallahassee and ones set to begin in Pensacola and Tallahassee on Dec. 6.