A subsidiary of 3M that originally manufactured Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2) for the military, Aearo Technologies, claims that a vast majority of the plaintiffs in the CAEv2 MDL have normal hearing, according to the Star Tribune. 

In a March 1 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Aearo suggested that data by the U.S. Department of Defense reveals that over 175,000 U.S. military veterans, who allege that they developed hearing loss or hearing damage as a result of a faulty design in the military-issued earplugs, have normal hearing audiometric readings, based on standards set forth by the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. 

Based on WHO and AMA criteria, 85% and 90% of plaintiffs have no hearing impairment, respectively, claims Aearo. Aearo also claims that nearly 25% of plaintiffs in the MDL who have tinnitus or hearing loss as set forth by AMA or WHO standards had those problems before they started using the dual-ended earplugs, which were the sole hearing-protection device provided to the DOD from 2003 until 2015. 

Responding to Aearo’s claims, the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated, “This filing is yet another illustration of the bad faith exhibited by 3M. There is simply no route for 3M to resolve this litigation if it continues to take the offensive and impractical position that 90 percent of service members and veterans are liars with worthless claims.”

After 16 bellwether CAEv2 MDL trials resulted in 10 plaintiff jury verdicts totaling $300 million in damage awards, 3M placed its CAEv2 liabilities onto Aearo. Aearo then subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

The CAEv2 MDL is one of the largest mass torts in U.S. history, at one time approaching 300,000 plaintiffs. Both 3M and Aearo are named as defendants in the lawsuit. A bankruptcy judge has denied 3M’s attempt to escape litigation despite the stay on litigation for its subunit while the bankruptcy plan is being considered in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. 3M has appealed the judge’s decision. CAEv2 plaintiffs, meanwhile, have called upon the bankruptcy judge to dismiss Aearo’s Chapter 11 filing.