3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies appealed a federal judge’s dismissal of its bankruptcy filing on June 12, the latest in a years-long saga to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military.
Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired in 2008, has been in litigation for years regarding its dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, or CAEv2. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing the product’s defects, according to a Department of Justice release.
However, service members and veterans began filing lawsuits shortly after, accusing 3M and Aearo Technologies of manufacturing and selling the defective CAEv2 product, which plaintiffs say resulted in hearing loss and other injuries, such as tinnitus.
Aearo Technologies has received 336,995 lawsuits filed against the company, according to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. As of June 15, 254,943 cases were still pending. The cases were consolidated in April 2019 and are being tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
As a result of the increasing number of cases against it, Aearo Technologies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last July. As part of the bankruptcy, 3M planned to create a fund that would “efficiently and equitably” resolve claims against it related to the earplug case. 3M committed $1 billion towards the trust, as well as $240 million for case-related expenses.
The court pressed back against 3M’s bankruptcy claim, however, asserting that Aearo Technologies was financially healthy and did not fit the need for bankruptcy.
Even as litigation against it continues, with 3M’s backing and hefty insurance coverage, the manufacturer remains financially solvent, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Indiana Chief Judge Jeffrey Graham wrote in his dismissal of the bankruptcy on June 9.
The manufacturing behemoth filed its appeal of the decision three days later.
To date, 3M does not admit to any wrongdoing and maintains the CAEv2 product was safe. “We are vigorously defending our record and demonstrating the CAEv2 product was effective and safe to use,” the company states on its website dedicated to the litigation.
The earplugs litigation is not the only lawsuit on 3M’s plate.
The chemical manufacturing giant, along with DuPont de Nemours, Corteva and the Chemours Co. recently reached a $1.2 billion settlement to resolve all PFAS-related drinking water contamination claims against them. State and local governments across the country have sued the three companies for their alleged contamination of water systems with harmful PFAS chemicals.