In early June, Judge Jeffrey Graham of the United States Bankruptcy Court dismissed a series of Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases filed by 3M subsidiaries. In the process, the Judge eliminated two major impediments to progress in the pending litigation against 3M relating to its Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (“CAEv2”).

What Injuries Have Been Caused by 3M Earplugs Widely Used by the Military?

The CAEv2 earplugs were designed and manufactured for use by all branches of the U.S. armed forces between 2003 and 2015. It is believed that the earplugs were used by tens of thousands of service men and women who were on active duty during that time.

As a result of their use of these defective products, those service men and women suffered personal injuries, including hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), permanent hearing damage, need for hearing aids, and deafness. These injuries resulted in massive litigation against 3M and a number of 3M subsidiary companies that developed, tested, marketed and sold the CAEv2 earplugs to the U.S. Government. Because hundreds of thousands of individuals brought claims for personal injuries arising out of their use of the earplugs, the litigation was centralized in a “Multi District Litigation” (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, where the cases remain pending, now years into centralized management.

What Led to a Pause in Litigation Against 3M?

The CAEv2 ear plugs were developed, tested, marketed and sold by 3M and a group of companies 3M acquired in 2005. Those companies, Aearo Technologies, LLC, Aearo Holding LLC, Aearo Intermediate LLC, Aearo LLC, Aearo Mexico Holding Corp., Cabot Safety Intermediate LLC and 3M Occupational Safety LLC (“Aearo”), are all parties to the Florida MDL which was just getting off the ground when the Aearo entities filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection forcing a stay, or pause, in the MDL.

What is the Latest Stage of these Cases?

On June 9, 2023, Judge Graham dismissed the bankruptcy cases finding, in essence, that the companies are not bankrupt and that the filing was not made in good faith but rather to try and avoid financial responsibility for the defective product. As a result, on June 14, 2023, Judge Casey Rodgers, who is presiding over the MDL, lifted the stay on the MDL proceedings against the Aearo defendants. This eliminated a major block in the road to progress in the MDL. Unfortunately, also interfering with progress in the MDL is a petition for interlocutory appellate review of a sanctions order, entered against 3M in the MDL. That said, Judge Rodgers’ recent Order does allow for cases to proceed directly against the Aearo defendants, which will hopefully foster some progress in the overarching MDL litigation.

SUGARMAN has formed a team to represent U.S. Service and military members and veterans who have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus from their use of the defective CAEv2 earplugs and has significant experience representing individuals injured by defective consumer products.

We will continue to monitor and report on progress in the 3M earplug MDL lawsuits.