On May 22, 2019, Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida issued an order naming Lieff Cabraser partner Kenny S. Byrd to the Early Vetting Committee in the nationwide product defect lawsuit against 3M relating to allegations that for over a decade, 3M provided defective earplugs to men and women in the U.S. military. Complaints in numerous lawsuits allege that the ear plugs, distributed between 2002 and 2015, were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears, putting users at risk for permanent hearing loss, hearing impairment, and tinnitus.
In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced that 3M Company had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection devices. The now-discontinued dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs were standard-issued equipment for Afghanistan and Iraq soldiers serving between 2002 and 2015.
Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears, and that the plugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.
“This is a wholesale breach of the public trust,” notes Byrd. “These men and women were deployed in the U.S. armed forces to defend our country. While protecting the U.S., they were outfitted with allegedly defective combat earplugs, which led to irreparable hearing loss and debilitating, permanent tinnitus. That wrong needs to be made right for each and every person harmed.”
Lieff Cabraser was among a number of U.S. law firms that filed lawsuits against 3M on behalf of the injured and defrauded servicemen and servicewomen. The lawsuits were aggregated in federal court in Florida into a multidistrict litigation, Case No. 3:19md2885 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, and Judge Rodgers’ May 22, 2019 Order No. 7 sets forth the attorney leadership structure for that litigation.
Kenny S. Byrd
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP