3M to Pay Out $5.5B Over Earplugs That Didn't Work: Sources

Veterans say ear protection didn't actually protect
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2023 9:40 AM CDT
3M to Pay Out $5.5B Over Earplugs That Didn't Work: Sources
   (3M via the Wall Street Journal)

In what is the largest mass tort in US history, hundreds of thousands of veterans took legal action against 3M, accusing the manufacturing company of producing earplugs that failed to protect them from hearing loss. Now, sources tell the Wall Street Journal the two sides are getting close to a massive settlement that would resolve all the claims. The final amount hasn't yet been settled on, nor has the 3M board voted on anything, but sources say a $5.5 billion payout by 3M is being discussed. The company sold the earplugs to the US military, which then issued them to soldiers, Bloomberg reports. The earplugs were developed by Aearo Technologies, a company 3M acquired in 2008.

The earplugs were designed to protect users from loud noises while still allowing softer noises, such as talking, to be heard. 3M insists they worked correctly when used with proper training. The company made a similar claim in 2018 when it paid $9.1 million to resolve a claim from the US government regarding earplugs that could loosen while being worn; the company said the ear protection did work when worn properly. Last summer, Aearo accepted responsibility for the earplug liability claims and filed for bankruptcy as a separate company, but a judge dismissed the bankruptcy filing in June and an appeal is pending. (3M also just reached a massive settlement over PFAS.)

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