Without going into great detail, it was revealed last year in a lawsuit brought by a competing company against 3M that the military ear plugs primarily utilized in our armed forces was defectively designed. This fact was known by 3M and their predecessor company Aero from the very inception of the product. Last year 3M pretty much acknowledged this through a settlement with the U.S. Government. Although the majority of the records in that case are still under seal, we know enough now to have a good understanding of the main flaws. First, in order to get the product to meet even MINIMUM testing standards, they manipulated the product by rolling back one of the “flanges” of the ear plug to create a better seat in the ear canal. This doubled the efficacy of the test, and they were barely able to meet the standard thresholds in doing so. A lot of other “shady stuff” happened as well. Against that backdrop, lawyers who handle cases involving large groups of people smelled this case out and realized that the real victims, the veterans, weren’t part of that settlement, and probably weren’t told anything by Uncle Sam either.
As a consequence our firm, along with some of the other bigger firms in the country, have reached out to veterans to bring claims against the manufacturers for any hearing problems sustained as a result of the use and reliance on this defective product. We believe somewhere upwards to 2 million men and women in active service were issued these ear plugs over the relevant time from of 2003 to 2015. As we have begun filing cases, the Federal Court system has decided that all of the cases should be consolidated with one judge for all the pre-trial discovery. This is called an MDL order, and in this case the panel held a hearing in March in Washington, DC. We attended that hearing and the panel has made the decision to send all the cases to the Federal Court in Pensacola, Florida to address these massive discovery issues.
We attended the first hearing with the Federal MDL Court in Pensacola on April 17. The judge for the case will be Judge Margaret Rodgers. She will be assisted with local magistrates and other court officers. Her first job will be to organize the case and select some lawyers for specific tasks associated with further development of the case. Our firm has been selected in this process many times in the past, most recently by assignment of the Federal Court to try the lead bellwether case in the GM defective switch litigation in New York, and in service to several committees on the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that was handled in an MDL assigned to New Orleans. With that experience and background, we have offered to help on this aspect of the case, which benefits all the claimants down the road. If and when this part of the process is resolved, we will ask the court to allow your case to proceed on individual merits with our firm as lead counsel. Hopefully we will be able to reach an amicable solution before that time.