A federal jury on Thursday awarded $ 110 million to two U.S. Army veterans who said they had hearing damage due to combat plugs produced by multinational manufacturer 3M.
It's the latest decision in a network of hundreds of thousands of lawsuits accusing 3M of deliberately selling defective earplugs to the military. 3M has maintained that the recently discontinued product, which was marketed as Combat Arms earplugs, version 2, was effective and safe to use.
The decision on Thursday represented the largest sum ever awarded in the earplug case against 3M. The two veterans, Ronald Sloan and William Wayman, were each awarded $ 15 million in compensatory damages and $ 40 million in penalties by a jury in the Northern District Court of Florida.
Bryan F. Aylstock, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said both men had tinnitus and hearing loss that disrupted their daily lives.
"Although they are certainly happy with the verdict and happy that the jury saw through the defenses that 3M was trying to put forward, they have to return to their lives with these permanent conditions, which simply will never disappear and will only get worse, Said Mr Aylstock.
Mr. Sloan and Mr. Wayman used both earplugs during training and their deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to their lawyers. Mr. Sloan served in the Army from 1994 to 2015, and Mr. Wayman served from 1997 to 2017.
Sir. Aylstock said 3M unnecessarily endangered soldiers.
"It's not like this was a paper clip or a Post-it note, where if it does not work, it is not a huge deal," said Mr. Aylstock. "They knew this would cause permanent damage to our soldiers."
3M said in an email statement that they would appeal the jury's decision, noting that the company had won the two previous cases in the case of earplugs.
"While we are disappointed with the verdicts, the overall mixed record in the time trial so far shows that plaintiffs face significant challenges in this lawsuit and each case must be considered based on its own facts and circumstances," the statement said.
Aearo Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M, developed the product and was also sued.
Nearly 300,000 service members and civilians are involved in the case of earplugs, which is one of the largest mass tortoises in American history.
In the other 10 cases settled, 3M won five cases and the plaintiffs won five cases. Nine of the 14 service members who were plaintiffs in the successful lawsuits were awarded $ 1.7 million to $ 22.5 million each.
Five other trial dates are set for this year. The next trial is scheduled to take place in Pensacola, Fla., In March.
The lawsuit was spurred in part by a whistleblower case that claimed 3M sold defective earplugs to the military in violation of the False Claims Act. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $ 9.1 million in a settlement with the Justice Department in response to the lawsuit. The settlement did not settle liability.