3M to pay billions to settle lawsuits over US military earplugs – Bloomberg

More than 300,000 troops claim they suffered hearing loss and tinnitus due to company’s faulty product

American multinational conglomerate 3M has agreed to pay more than $5.5 billion to settle hundreds of thousands of lawsuits, claiming that it supplied defective combat earplugs to the US military, people familiar with the deal told Bloomberg.

According to the agreement, the company will be paying the money out over a five-year period, the agency reported on Sunday. 3M’s board is yet to sign off on the settlement, it added.

When approached on the issue by Bloomberg, a representative of 3M said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

3M faces more than 300,000 lawsuits from US troops, consolidated in a multi-district litigation, claiming that the earplugs that the company’s subsidiary Aearo Technologies provided to the military between 2003 and 2015 were defective, and failed to protect their users from hearing loss and tinnitus.

Current and former servicemen alleged that the company knew its earplugs were faulty, but did not inform the military about the problem, while making no steps to fix the product.

The earplugs, designed to protect the hearing of troops during training and combat, were standard issue for US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

3M failed 10 out of 16 early trials over the plugs, and has been told to pay over $250 million in damages to more than a dozen plaintiffs.

Bloomberg noted that the reported settlement would allow the company to avoid a much larger liability, which it estimated at up to $9.5 billion.

“Sounds like 3M negotiated a pretty good deal for itself, given this litigation has been weighing on them for the better part of a decade,” University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the agency.

3M had earlier sought bankruptcy for Aearo Technologies in an attempt to shield itself from the lawsuits over earplugs. However, this June, a judge ruled that the firm’s financial troubles were not harsh enough to initiate the procedure.

The same month, 3M announced that it had reached a $10.3 billion settlement with a host of US public water systems to resolve water pollution claims tied to so-called “forever chemicals” or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in the company’s products.

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