Facing thousands of lawsuits from U.S. service members who said 3M earplugs failed to protect their hearing, the manufacturing giant announced it is committing $1 billion to a trust to resolve the suits — and that Aearo Technologies, the 3M unit that made the plugs, is filing for voluntary bankruptcy as part of the plan.
The announcement comes three years since the start of the service members’ litigation, which contends 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs were faulty. Since then, 3M has prevailed at six earplug-related trials and lost at 10; as of the most recent case, decided in May, 13 plaintiffs have won almost $300 million in judgments against the company. 3M has not paid out on those cases, instead choosing to appeal the verdicts.
As of June 30, there were nearly 250,000 earplug cases filed and outstanding, 3M said.