Vilsmeyer’s award ($1 million per year of his injuries – he used the earplugs for more than a decade) is the second largest amount a veteran has won in a number of lawsuits against 3M and the lawsuits have grown (over 280,000 active and former military members have filed complaints) to become the largest federal mass tort litigation in history, Reuters reported.
Luke Vilsmeyer v. 3M Co
According to his lawsuit, Vilsmeyer brought fifteen claims against 3M from injuries he alleges were caused by his use of the Combat Arms Earplug version 2 (“CAEv2”), and his wife filed for loss of consortium. Vilsmeyer claims his hearing was damaged after wearing 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 from 2006 to 2017. The headphones also caused severe tinnitus. The 42-year-old Indiana resident served in the army from 1999 to 2020, first as a howitzer gunner and later as a Green Beret, noted Reuters.
Other plaintiffs also claimed that the company neglected to provide instructions for the headphones, faked test results and kept design flaws hidden. Soon after Vilsmeyer’s verdict, Steven Wilkerson, who served in the Army National Guard and claimed the earplugs caused his hearing loss and tinnitus, was awarded $8 million by a Tallahassee jury. As of March 2022, plaintiffs had won over $160 million combined in six previous bellwether trials, including two U.S. Army veterans who were awarded $110 million in January.
3M argued that Vilsmeyer's injuries are mild and treatable, but U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. disagreed. "The record substantially supports that plaintiff's tinnitus in particular is in fact quite severe and constant, and as defendants concede, permanent…Even defense counsel could not help but acknowledge plaintiff's credibility and demeanor for truthfulness…So the court will not disturb the jury's evaluation of plaintiff's testimony and the noneconomic damages caused by his injuries, which are substantially supported,” according to the order.
Judge Dalton said that Vilsmeyer's trial testimony was "extremely effective and compelling" in demonstrating the significant emotional impact that have had on his life, how it's impacted his relationships with his wife and children and that it has caused him to lose sleep, reported Law360.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “many times, tinnitus can't be cured” and it can significantly affect quality of life and anyone can experience tinnitus, but these factors may increase your risk:
- Loud noises, such as those from heavy equipment, chain saws and firearms, are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Portable music devices, such as MP3 players, also can cause noise-related hearing loss if played loudly for long periods. People who work in noisy environments — such as… soldiers – are particularly at risk.
READ MORE 3M DEFECTIVE EARPLUGS LEGAL NEWS
The case is Luke Vilsmeyer et al. v. 3M Co. et al., case number 7:20-cv-00113, and the MDL is In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:19-md-02885, both in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.