Federal jury orders 3M to pay $77.5M to veteran over alleged hearing damage from its earplugs
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. David Wiggins
Federal jury orders 3M to pay $77.5M to veteran over alleged hearing damage from its earplugs

A federal jury Friday unanimously ordered 3M Co. to pay USD 77.5 million to a US Army veteran for alleged hearing damage that resulted from using the company’s military-issue earplugs. The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division heard the case, with Judge Casey Rodgers presiding.

James Beal, the US Army veteran in the case, served in the army from 2005 to 2009 and in the Army Reserve until 2011. Beal said he wore 3M’s Combat Arms Version 2 earplugs during this time. Aearo Technologies developed the earplugs issued in the army between 2003 and 2015; however, 3M bought Aearo in 2008. Beal’s proceeding was the 16th trial in consolidated litigation against 3M over its earplugs. The company has lost in 10 of these trials. The total amount of damages in the trials lost exceeds USD 300 million.

The multiple plaintiffs in the trials alleged that 3M concealed design defects, manipulated test results, and failed to provide adequate instructions on using its earplugs. The federal jury awarded Beal compensatory damages to the tune of USD 5 million for hearing loss and tinnitus, and USD 72.5 million in punitive damages. Beal’s trial lasted for two weeks.

3M intends to appeal the verdict and damages, as well as those of its nine other unfavorable verdicts that it has not yet appealed.