On December 10, 2021, a federal jury awarded $22.5 million to U.S. Army soldier Theodore Finley holding 3M liable for hearing loss from defective earplugs used in combat. The former soldier was awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages. This is now the largest jury verdict to date. Previous jury verdicts were $13 million, $8.2 million, $7.1 million and $1.7 million.
The trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Claims against 3M are consolidated there in a Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”). There are more than 272,000 cases filed against 3M by veterans and service members, claiming that 3M’s earplugs were defectively designed. They allege that the defective design prevented the earplugs from providing protection to service members and that this failure led to tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
Finley served in the Army from 2006-2014. According a pretrial order, he was exposed to noise from weapons, vehicles, airplanes and helicopters. He represented that he suffers from bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss.
There have now been eight bellwether trials. Plaintiffs have won five of the bellwether trials and 3M has claimed three defense verdicts in the bellwether trials. Two more trials are currently in progress. Six are set for 2022.
The case is Theodore Finley v. 3M Co. et al., case number 7:20-cv-00170, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
The MDL is In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:19-md-02885, in the same court.
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