150,236 Veterans File Personal Injury Suits Alleging Defective 3M Earplugs

Lawsuits filed each month by veterans claiming that they had suffered hearing loss and other hearing-related problems as a result of defective 3M-supplied earplugs have not been slowed by the partial court shutdown caused by the coronavirus. As of the end of June, a total of 150,236 suits have been filed between January and June of 2020. In June alone, a total of 23,608 new suits were filed.

To place the surge of lawsuits filed by veterans into perspective, during the last six months just 131,422 other suits—after excluding veterans' suits against 3M—were filed all throughout the country. During this six-month period these veterans' suits against the 3M Company accounted for over half (53.3%) of all federal civil lawsuits of all types filed across the entire U.S. Trends in non-veterans' suits have also held fairly steady and do not appear to be impacted by the coronavirus. See Table 1 and Figure 1.

Figure 1. While Veteran Suits Climb, Other Suits Steady Despite COVID-19,
Oct 2019 - June 2020
(Click for larger image)

These veterans' 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. 3M contends that they produced the earplugs in accordance to military specifications and informed the military of the results of product testing.

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).

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. Also see earlier TRAC reports covering the upward climb of these 3M-related veterans' suits through February, March, and April.

Table 1. Federal Civil Suits Filed by Veterans Against 3M vs. All Other Suits
Month Veteran Suits
(Florida North)
All Other Suits in U.S.
Oct 2019 373 24,116
Nov 2019 598 20,815
Dec 2019 118 21,808
Jan 2020 7,557 22,184
Feb 2020 17,421 21,721
Mar 2020 22,995 22,046
Apr 2020 34,778 21,741
May2020 32,429 20,122
Jun 2020 35,056 23,608
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.