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3M to face four more trials in massive military earplug litigation

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The logo of 3M at the 3M Tilloy plant in Tilloy-Lez-Cambrai, France. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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  • 3M earplug multidistrict litigation largest in U.S. history
  • 3M scheduled to face 11 trials through May

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Oct 8 - A federal judge overseeing thousands of lawsuits by military veterans who say they suffered hearing damage as a result of using defective earplugs sold by 3M Co has scheduled four more trials in the largest multidistrict litigation ever.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in Pensacola, Florida, on Tuesday scheduled four more bellwether trials to take place from March to May. Those are in addition to seven other trials already scheduled through January, including one kicking off on Oct. 18.

Rodgers will preside over that upcoming trial, but after that, other federal judges in Florida will oversee the bellwethers, or test trials used by parties in mass tort litigation to gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.

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3M, which is represented by Kirkland & Ellis, in a statement said it was “confident in our case and are prepared to vigorously defend ourselves in all upcoming trials.”

Rodgers has been pushing to try the cases at a rapid pace as part of her effort to manage an MDL that has ballooned to include more than 259,000 cases, the most that have ever been consolidated into a federal mass tort.

Her orders came after a jury in the fourth trial in the litigation on Friday awarded a U.S. Army veteran $8.2 million after finding that 3M's Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 caused him to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus.

The first trial resulted in $7.1 million verdict for three plaintiffs in April, while the second ended in a victory for 3M in May. Jurors in a third trial found 3M 62% liable for the $1.7 million in damages a veteran sustained.

Bryan Aylstock, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, said Rodgers has also ordered the parties to "work up" hundreds of additional cases so she can remand cases to judges nationally for additional trials.

The four new trials she scheduled will take place March 14, March 28, April 18 and May 9. Rodgers picked two of the cases for trial, while the plaintiffs and defense picked one each.

The MDL is In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, No. 19-md-2885.

For the plaintiffs: Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz; Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson; and Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss

For 3M: Mike Brock of Kirkland & Ellis

Read more:

3M hit with $6 mln punitive damages by U.S. jury in first combat earplug trial

3M loses third trial in huge military earplug mass tort

3M hit with $8.2 million verdict in fourth military earplug trial

(Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Bryan Aylstock of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz.)

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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