51,307 Veterans File Personal Injury Suits Alleging Defective 3M Earplugs

New federal civil lawsuits filed in March continue to rise, driven by an ongoing surge of lawsuits filed by tens of thousands of veterans claiming that they had suffered hearing loss and other hearing-related problems as a result of defective 3M-supplied earplugs. As of the end of March, a total of 51,307 suits have been filed[1]. Most were filed during January through March of this year. In March alone, a total of 22,995 suits were filed.

To place the surge of lawsuits filed by veterans into perspective, during March these veterans' suits against the 3M Company accounted for over half of all federal civil lawsuits of all types filed across the entire U.S. See Table 1.

Table 1. Veterans Suits Against 3M Outnumber All Other Federal Civil Litigation Filed in U.S. During March 2020
Month Veterans Suits
(Florida North)
All Other Suits in U.S.
Oct-19 373 24,116
Nov-19 598 20,815
Dec-19 118 21,808
Jan-20 7,557 22,184
Feb-20 17,421 21,721
Mar-20 22,995 22,046

These suits are classified as "personal injury - product liability" cases in the federal court data. The veterans' suits claimed that 3M knew these earplugs had defects but sold them to the Army anyway without disclosing this information to the Army or warning the public.

The veterans' lawsuits against 3M are not distributed in federal courts throughout the country. Back in April of last year as filings began to grow, a judicial panel consolidated veterans' cases involving these allegedly defective 3M earplugs and assigned United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida to handle their pretrial matters since they involved common issues and questions of fact about the "design, testing, sale, and marketing of the Combat Arms Earplugs" (case 3:19-md-2885).

Long term trends in federal civil litigation going back for five years shown below in Figure 1 clearly displays that during the most recent three months, personal injury - product liability suits have grown to dominate the entire civil caseload of the federal courts.

These results are based on case-by-case court records on federal civil lawsuits analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. An earlier TRAC report covered trends in these 3M-related veterans suits through February.

Figure 1. Monthly Number of Federal Civil Lawsuits Filed, March 2015 - March 2020
(Click for larger image)


[1] In April of 2019, this litigation was consolidated in the Northern District of Florida and assigned to U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers who is based in the Pensacola office of the Northern District of Florida. This count is based upon TRAC's analysis of the case title in each suit filed in that office since January 2019 where the 3M Company was the first named defendant and the nature of suit was a personal injury - product liability case.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.