In July 2020, a federal judge from Pensacola, FLA ruled that 3M, the manufacturer of the infamous defective earplugs, cannot invoke the “government contractor defense” to protect itself from the accusations.
Honorable Judge M. Casey Rodgers decreed that the evidence to establish the elements of the above-mentioned reasoning was insufficient. The company tried to take advantage of the defense that protects contractors from liability when a product developed for the federal government is defective.
However, as the judge noted, the “CAEv2” earplugs were already available on the market before any collaboration with the Army was started. Their contract with the government had to include at least a warning about their risks, making the company’s request for “government contractor defense” to become invalid.
Now, since the immunity fell off, the manufacturer must now face the many 3M earplugs lawsuits starting from the bellwether discovery cases.
The earplugs originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies were sold to the Army since the late 1990s. 3M simply bought the company in 2008 and continued to sell them until the first complains started to be filed.
Plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit claim that the CAEv2 earplugs used by soldiers were defective. Built to protect military personnel from loud sounds such as explosions and gunfire, the earplugs did not maintain a tight fit, exposing the users to a significant risk of hearing loss.
According to the manufacturer, the device was created to block intense noise without preventing the soldier from hearing quieter sounds such as nearby voices. However, the stem was too short, and would dislodge without the user being aware of this risk.
Claimants now argue that 3M and Aero were both aware of this design issue, but never did anything to either fix the problem or warn the Army about it.
Currently, nearly 200,000 lawsuits have been centralized in an MDL the Northern District of Florida in what has quickly become one of the largest mass torts in the U.S. history.