In a settlement agreement announced Aug. 29, Minnesota-based manufacturer 3M has agreed to pay $6 billion to resolve lawsuits filed by U.S. service members who said their earplugs caused them hearing loss or other injuries.
The settlement will be paid with $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in stock from 3M, and will be paid in installments through 2029. The agreement winds down one of the largest mass torts in U.S. history, the Associated Press reported.
The agreement is structured to “promote participation by claimants and is intended to resolve all claims” associated with the company’s Combat Arms Earplug products, 3M said in a news release. The deal also includes all claims in the multi-district litigation in Florida and in the coordinated state court action in Minnesota, as well as potential future claims.
“This agreement is not an admission of liability,” 3M said in a statement. “The products at issue in this litigation are safe and effective when used properly. 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation if certain agreed terms of the settlement agreement are not fulfilled.”
The lawsuits accused 3M and its subsidiary, Indianapolis-based Aearo Technologies, of selling faulty combat earplugs that damaged the hearing of veterans who used them. 3M planned to resolve the lawsuits by putting Aearo into bankruptcy, where controversial rules sometimes allow parent companies to benefit by halting jury trials and settle their lawsuits.
That plan fell through Aug. 26, however, when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffrey J. Graham refused to temporarily halt the lawsuits against 3M and Aearo.
The ear plugs settlement is just the latest bout of litigation for the manufacturer.
In June, 3M said it would pay up to $12.5 billion to settle an environmental lawsuit brought by cities that claimed the chemicals in the firefighting foam provided to them contaminated drinking water. The company announced that the settlement would provide funding to public water suppliers nationwide that have detected PFAS in drinking water and other public water suppliers that may detect the chemicals in the future, for treatment technologies.
In August, 3M said it had agreed to pay more than $6.5 million to resolve charges that it violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The SEC order found that employees of a 3M wholly owned subsidiary based in China arranged for Chinese government officials employed by state-owned healthcare facilities to attend overseas conferences, educational events, and healthcare facility visits as part of marketing and outreach efforts.