3M plans to resolve an epic legal battle over its military earplugs through bankruptcy court, but the company will face fierce opposition from plaintiffs.
In one of the largest U.S. mass tort cases ever, about 230,000 U.S. military members and veterans allege that Combat Arms earplugs — made by 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies — were faulty, damaging their hearing.
Plaintiffs have already scored several victories in cases that have gone to trial, netting almost $300 million from jury verdicts. 3M announced Tuesday that it put its Aearo subsidiary into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will set up a $1 billion trust fund to pay all claims.
“It’s really about us — 3M — stepping up to do right by veterans,” 3M CEO Mike Roman told stock analysts in a conference call Tuesday. “We believe litigating cases individually can take years if not decades.”
3M’s move was blasted by plaintiffs’ attorneys, who said 3M’s $1 billion settlement plan is “woefully” underfunded.
“3M’s bankruptcy maneuver is further proof that they value their profits and stock price more than the well-being of veterans who fought and served our country,” lead counsel Bryan Aylstock said in a statement. “We will challenge this bankruptcy filing