Judge: 3M Can’t Block Earplug Lawsuits with Bankruptcy - Modern Distribution Management

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Judge: 3M Can’t Block Earplug Lawsuits with Bankruptcy

The lawsuits accuse 3M and a subsidiary of selling faulty combat earplugs that damaged the hearing of veterans who used them.

3M, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of PPE supplies and household adhesives, will not be able to block over 230,000 lawsuits accusing it of harming U.S. soldiers after a court ruling Friday, according to a report from business outlet Bloomberg. 

The lawsuits accuse 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.

3M announced in a news release Friday that it intends to appeal the decision.

“Aearo will continue in the chapter 11 proceedings, which it believes will offer a more efficient, equitable and expeditious pathway to resolution of these matters for all parties,” the company said. “3M also will continue to vigorously defend its position in the multi-district litigation and in its appeals in that litigation.

A temporary halt would help 3M pressure soldiers into settling, Graham said in his ruling. But federal bankruptcy law in Indiana does not allow him to grant 3M’s request for an injunction, he ruled.

“Admittedly, it is tempting to be swayed by the sheer size of the (multi-district litigation) at issue in this case, but that alone provides insufficient reason for the court to conclude that an injunction is necessary,” Graham wrote

In addition to bankruptcy, 3M could also face north of $100 billion in losses stemming from the lawsuits, according to an expert hired by the soldiers’ law firms. That estimate has since been disputed by both sides, with a spokesperson for 3M and advocates for the soldiers criticizing the expert’s findings. 

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