Multi-district lawsuits are indeed some of the most complicated legal cases in the court system, and product liability claims are a primary example of when that can apply. When these cases are compounded by manufacturers that are wanting to claim exemption from liability due to government contractor status, the cases get even worse. This is what is happening with the current 3M lawsuits that have been filed on behalf of 240,000 veterans claiming ear damage from using the company earplugs mandated by the U.S. military. The claim is that the earplugs are defective with respect to preventing hearing loss when in a combat situation, and 3M knew of the defective nature before finalizing the sale. Some of the veteran claimants in the bellwether controlling precedent case are Texans.
A recent ruling in Minnesota
A recent class-action case in Minnesota attempting to file under state law has resulted in a Minnesota judge claiming no jurisdiction in several of the cases. 3M is a Minnesota-based company, but they argued in defense that they are exempt under federal law and that the cases should be heard in federal court which allows the exemption defense. The state judge refused to rule on some of the cases that originated in Florida, instead directing them for multidistrict litigation. The Florida cases have since been ruled upon in the federal court district of northern Florida.
Impact on other potential cases
The material facts in this product liability lawsuit are also bringing to light that the earplugs could also be defective for individuals who use them in scenarios outside of the military. While the 3M attorneys have since been successful in getting the cases into federal court, the bellwether cases resulted in several claimants being awarded major seven-figure settlements. The Florida cases will serve as the precedent for pending and additional multidistrict litigation cases that could also include claims coming from standard Americans who have purchased the earplugs for commercial use.
It is important for all potential 3M injury claimants to understand that product liability cases can still be very strongly contested. This is true even if a settlement has been reached in a prior case.