March 30, 2021. In what is surely a blow to defendants for 3M during the March 13 hearing that took place in a Florida Federal court, two industrial hygienists won’t be allowed to testify on the 3M combat hearing plug MDL lawsuit.
These industrial hygienists, whose work involves the role of anticipating, identify and recognize workplace hazards are barred from any expert witness statements according to the judge in the case.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers stated that Dr. Richard Neitzel and Jennifer Sahmel can’t testify on behalf of 3M because plaintiffs questioned their opinions based on their qualifications, reliability and helpfulness in the cases.
Judge Casey Rodgers said:
“They will not be permitted to testify that the Army did not consistently or uniformly implement hearing protection device training and fitting requirements, or that failing to do so impacted the efficacy of its hearing programs and placed soldiers at risk of hearing-related injuries.”
He also mentioned that neither expert witness had any knowledge or experience with the Army Hearing Conservation Program. “an expert’s opinion must nevertheless be based on sufficient facts or data and ’have a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of his [or her] discipline.’ These experts satisfy neither criteria.”
He went on to further state: “Dr. Neitzel’s and Sahmel’s opinions in this regard are speculative, unreliable, and mere conduits for hearsay.”
There are currently 220,000 service members and veterans who have asserted that they have suffered hearing loss or tinnitus from these allegedly defective combat earplugs.
In a motion filed on March 19, “requested an immediate hearing to address Defendants apparent efforts to perform impermissible jury research, influence the jury, and subvert the Court’s judgments and evidentiary rulings.”
This action came directly from 3M creating a website and buying ads on the Internet to show up for searches related to search terms such as “Combat Hearing Loss, “earplug lawsuits, “defective earplugs”. It appears that that 3M wanted to sway potential jurors if they read the web page.
During the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of armed forces members were deployed with dual-ended earplugs meant to protect their hearing in combat.
The United States military purchased millions of units of 3M’s combat earplugs and distributed them to service members between 2003 and 2015. The same year the military stopped distributing 3M’s earplugs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a study revealing more than 1 million veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss and 1.6 million more were receiving compensation for the hearing condition tinnitus.
In 2018, three years after the VA report was released, it was revealed 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military. 3M agreed to pay $9.1 to the federal government to settle allegations it had knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military.
The earplugs sold by the Minnesota-based company were apparently too short to effectively protect soldiers’ hearing during combat. According to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 3M knew the earplugs were defective before it sold the product to the military. Now, lawsuits are being filed by veterans whose hearing was compromised during combat while wearing 3M’s defective earplugs.
Veterans and active duty military members are filing lawsuits against 3M accusing the company of selling a defective product that led to hearing loss and other injuries. Many of these lawsuits involve veterans who now suffer from tinnitus, the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself, but a symptom of an underlying condition, such as an injury to the ear.
The earplugs, called dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), were originally sold by Aearo Technologies LLC, which designs and manufactures noise, shock, and vibration products. In 2007, three years into the military’s contract with Aearo, 3M purchased the company for $1.2 billion. We have updated the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Individual Payout.
These lawsuits accuse 3M of designing a defective product and failing to warn about its potential risks.