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On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federally-filed 3M Dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits into one court in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers was appointed to oversee the proceedings.

Now, according to a recent case management order, the court has scheduled a Science & Technology Day for June 18, 2019, during which the parties will present information to help educate the Court on the scientific and technological aspects of the litigation.

District Judge Gets Litigation Rolling with Science & Technology Day

The cases in this litigation involve the 3M Dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, which 3M sold to the military between 2003 and 2015. Plaintiffs have brought similar claims involving the earplugs, alleging that they were defectively designed in that they failed to provide the expected level of hearing protection and exposed users to an increased risk of hearing damage and tinnitus.

In the case management order, Judge Rodgers addressed a number of issues, including plaintiff legal leadership, pleadings and motions, direct filing, multi-plaintiff actions, discovery conference calls, and other administrative matters. The science and technology day will begin at 9:00 a.m. on June 18, 2019, in Pensacola, Florida. It will be an informal, non-adversarial proceeding, in which the parties will present relevant information to the Court in a neutral manner.

The presentations will be off the record, and may not be used or admitted for any other purpose in the litigation. No official transcript will be filed or otherwise made available. The parties are to meet and discuss timing, scope, format, and presenters and submit a joint proposed agenda for the day by June 7, 2019.

JPML Considers Many Districts Before Choosing Florida for Lawsuit Consolidation

In deciding to consolidate the 3M earplug lawsuits, the JPML considered other venues including, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, which was the preferred location by the plaintiff who filed the initial motion to centralize. That plaintiff’s second choice was the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Defendant 3M and plaintiffs in more than 45 actions and potential tag-along actions supported centralization in the District of Minnesota.

Other suggested districts included those in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. The panel found that the actions contained common questions of fact, and that centralization would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.

They selected the Northern District of Florida after weighing the relevant factors, naming Judge M. Casey Rodgers as an “able jurist with experience in presiding over large products liability MDL.”

3M Failed to Warn that Earplugs Could Loosen

3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs were supposed to provide soldiers with two options:

  1. If worn in the closed position, they were to act as traditional earplugs and block as much sound as possible.
  2. If worn in the open position, they were to reduce loud impulse sounds like artillery fire, but allow the user to hear quieter noises like spoken commands.

The standard fitting instructions told the wearer to simply grasp the earplug by the stem and insert it into the ear canal. These instructions, however, can prevent a snug fit in the ear canal, reducing hearing protection—a defect that was not adequately warned about by the manufacturer.

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