Pensacola, Florida– A news article posted on law360.com reports that a Florida federal jury awarded three army veterans with a $7.1 million verdict in the country’s first bellwether trial involving defective combat earplugs causing tinnitus and hearing loss. According to the report a jury in Pensacola, Florida, found for the plaintiffs, three former service members who alleged that Acari LLC and 3M supplied the department of the fence with defective combat earplugs called “CAEv2S.” The servicemembers lawsuit alleged that the air plugs did not protect them against hearing loss in tinnitus while on the battlefield or during training as they were intended.
According to details provided about the jury award, each service member received $2.1 million and punitive damages. The jury also awarded $160,000 more 21 servicemember who sustained by lateral tinnitus in 2006. Another servicemember, received an additional $350,000 for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost standings, hearing loss, and ringing in both ears starting in 2014. The third service man was awarded an additional $320,000 for losing his hearing, lost earnings, medical costs, in pain and suffering.
According to the plaintiffs lawyers the three servicemen showed tremendous courage when they stood up against a large corporation such as 3M on behalf of all veterans who are suffering with hearing loss and tinnitus which would’ve been preventable had the combat earplugs worked.
According to the news article this jury trial began back on March 29, 2021. The news article also stated that the United States military did interact with the manufacturers to help develop the air plug. However, the first trial nearly 240,000 additional claims that are currently in multi district Litigation. The service members courtroom victory paves the way for future hearing loss and tinnitus lawsuits.
Attorneys for 3M argued that it is the military who bears responsibility and liability for the design and delivery of the ear plugs. However, US District Judge M. Casey Rogers ruled That 3M is not permitted to tell the jury during a trial that the federal government directed, dictated, approved, or otherwise use this discretion concerning the military specifications or discuss anything regarding the content of warnings or instructions.
3M Wins Second Bellwether Trial
On May 28, 2021, a verdict was reached concluding the second in a series of three bellwether trials, intended to gauge the relative strength of plaintiff claims and 3M defenses, toward valuing the litigation for potential settlement purposes. The jury in Pensacola, Florida found 3M not liable for the injuries inflicted upon Dustin McCombs.
Mr. McCombs, an addiction counselor in Ohio, claims his use of the earplugs while training in Alaska and then deployed in Afghanistan caused his tinnitus and hearing loss. His case was elected by defense attorneys, who attribute his condition to an IED blast.
3M Loses Third Bellwether Trial
Army veteran Lloyd Baker won his case and was awarded $1.7 million after a Florida jury found 3M 62% responsible for his hearing loss. Baker was a machine gun operator, who began experiencing muffled hearing and ringing in his ears while still in training, despite using the earplugs. After serving 16 months in Iraq, he was diagnoses with tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears.
During the trial, a defense attorney was sanctioned by Judge Rodgers for willfully violating an order and displaying a slide containing debatable statistics. According to Judge Rodgers, it seemed like the 3M team was using the slide to show jurors hearsay evidence. Almost immediately after the judge issued the sanctions, the jury delivered its verdict.
Additional Bellwether Trials Pending
Judge Rodgers issued a series of orders in June, scheduling a fourth and fifth bellwether trial, for September and October. The outcomes of these trials do not bind other plaintiffs, but they are generally indicative of how a jury might respond to certain evidence.
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