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3M creates trust to resolve hearing loss lawsuits

Earplug manufacturer 3M announced July 26 that the company has set aside more than $1 billion to resolve the more than 290,000 pending cases. Photo credit: Facebook

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According to a July 26 article in Stars and Stripes, earplug manufacturer 3M has announced that it has earmarked more than $1 billion to resolve the more than 290,000 pending cases filed by veterans who claim the company's earplugs damaged their hearing.

"We have great respect for the brave men and women who protect us, and remain committed to the military as an active partner and valued customer going forward," said Mike Roman, 3M's chairman and chief executive officer, in the article.

"We determined that taking this decisive action now will allow 3M and Aearo Technologies to address these claims in a way that is more efficient and equitable than the current litigation."

The decision is part of a voluntary bankruptcy filing of Aearo Technologies, the 3M subsidiary which manufactured the earplugs.

Acquired by 3M in 2008, Aearo Technologies initiated Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Specifically, the company wants court supervision to help establish the trust - funded by 3M - to facilitate resolution of the veterans' claims.

As of the middle of July, there are more than 290,000 claims from veterans pending in federal civil courts.

"3M said this move is intended to speed up the resolution of cases, which could take decades at the current pace," wrote Rose Thayer, the reporter who wrote the article for Stars and Stripes.

"The company committed $1 billion to fund the trust, as well as an additional $240 million to fund projected related case expenses. If required, 3M said it would provide additional funding."

Not everyone agrees with 3M's decision.

According to Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock Witkin Krels & Overholtz, PLLC, and Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP, the court appointed lead counsel for the veterans, 3M's offer is not sufficient.

"This is further proof that they value their profits and stock price more than the well-being of veterans who fought and served our country," commented Aylstock and Seeger.

The $1 billion trust "is woefully underfunded and not the ‘efficient and equitable resolution' that 3M is desperately pretending it is."

The two attorneys for the veterans added that they will make the case in bankruptcy court to have 3M's petition denied.

"Instead of negotiating in good faith, 3M decided to move its relentless attack on U.S. soldiers from the civil courts to the bankruptcy system," Aylstock and Seeger said.

"3M is a massively profitable corporation that knowingly caused hearing damage to hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members." 

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