After almost two years of trials in the 3M Combat Arms earplug litigation, plaintiffs have largely won large verdicts in the bellwether trials thus far. While Defendants won six trials (mostly those they hand-picked as weak cases, as we’ve noted previously), juries awarded favorable verdicts to the remaining plaintiffs, as follows:
- Luke Estes: $2.45 million in May 2021
- Lewis Keefer: $2.42 million in May 2021
- Stephen Hacker: $2.26 million in May 2021
- Lloyd Baker: $1.1 million in June, 2021
- Brandon Atkins: $8.2 million in September 2021
- Guillermo Camarillorazo: $13.1 million in November 2021
- Joseph Finley: $22.5 million, in November 2021
- Ronald Sloan and William Wayman: combined $110.0 million, in January 2022
- Steven Wilkerson: $8 Million in March 2022
- Luke Vilsmeyer: $50 Million in March 2022
- Jonathan Vaughn: $2.2 Million in April 2022
- James Beal: $77.5 Million in May 2022
Jury awards vary in range, and depend on the severity of the hearing loss and other factors specific to each injured party. But these awards show just how much juries may award a sympathetic and organized plaintiff at trial. In addition, these jury awards greatly influence the types of injuries that 3M will have to consider in settlement negotiations, and will heavily influence the amount of the settlement allotted for each injury. So these jury trials impact not only the plaintiffs who go to trial, but those who settle with 3M without the necessity of a trial.
Even 3M (slowly and reluctantly) learns that it will have to pay claimants something substantial to resolve this massive litigation. In a conference call in mid-September 2022, 3M’s chief legal officer announced that 3M would offer a total of $1 billion to settle Plaintiffs’ claims in this case. While that amount is normally a substantial amount of money, there are (as of December 15, 2022) some 262,048 actions pending in this lawsuit. In a lawsuit with its low jury verdicts in the millions, offering an average settlement of roughly $4,000 per claimant is simply unworkable. The stock markets agree: as 3M’s own investor page admits, 3M’s stock price slid 30% over the from its $180/share peak in January 2022 to today, reaching a low of $108/share in the month after 3M’s low-ball announcement.
Plaintiffs continue to negotiate a global settlement with 3M – and bellwether cases are currently stayed while 3M appeals the previous denial of its attempt to claim bankruptcy protection. Under these circumstances, veterans who suffered hearing loss while wearing 3M’s Combat Arms v2 Earplugs still have time – and ample reason – to join the fight and ensure their voices are heard.