This type of cases centrally involve two key issues, the damages sustained by each claimant as a result of the use of the defective product, and the liability of the product manufacturer. In this case, most claimants appear to have either some general hearing impairment or tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears. I have played in a professional rock band many years and have some of both issues as a consequence of not wearing adequate protection, so I have some further appreciation of what you may be dealing with. For the damages, we will primarily rely on the hearing tests conducted through your military career. We will be working with the court on exemplar forms that cover these areas along with others as part of the review process. At some point we may need to arrange for further independent testing. Some claimants have already gone through some of that in requests for VA benefits. This too is something we will have to thoroughly review. That said, it will be our burden to show that you wore the product and have hearing deficits of some form as a direct consequence of those product failures. Also there is the issue of when the product was worn, as 3M acquired this product line around 2007-08 and the predecessor liabilities may not have carried over. We will have to explore the types of purchase agreements the companies entered into to better understand that issue.
The other major prong of civil litigation cases is in proving the liability of the company/manufacturer. We have had extensive dealings with 3M in prior litigation. We were able to prove that many years ago 3M sold defective dust masks that were advertised to keep asbestos out of the lungs. These representations were false, and as a consequence many thousands of our clients suffered lung damage, for which we were able to hold 3M accountable. We believe we will be able to do so again here. That said, there are some additional defenses that apply to this case. When the government is the entity that orders a product for service use, the manufacturer is entitled to some degree of protection, called the Government Contractor’s defense. In order to be immune from liability, they have to show that the product was made to government specifications and that the government was aware of any material defects or problems with the product. 3M will maintain such is the case here. Only time and discovery of historical documents and witness testimony will flush those issues out.