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(Reuters) – 3M Co has urged a federal judge not to interfere with its plan to take claims that its military-grade earplugs caused hearing damage to bankruptcy court, where the company believes it can resolve them fairly. more favorable than in federal mass tort litigation in Florida.
The filings in federal court in Pensacola on Wednesday came in response to motions filed by veterans last week seeking to prevent 3M from avoiding lawsuits by filing for bankruptcy protection of its subsidiary Aearo Technologies, the original maker of the earplugs. which he bought in 2008.
A spokesman for the plaintiffs’ attorneys did not immediately comment.
U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who has since 2019 presided over consolidated multidistrict litigation that has grown to nearly 300,000 claims, has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Thursday.
The plaintiffs have said they suffered injuries including tinnitus and hearing loss after wearing Aearo’s CAEv2 earplugs in combat or training because they did not form a proper seal.
Of the 16 lawsuits in the multidistrict litigation to date involving 19 service members, plaintiffs have won 10, with nearly $265 million in combined awards for 13 plaintiffs.
Aearo filed for bankruptcy protection on July 26, saying it had committed $1 billion to settle the earplug litigation.
In a motion filed last Thursday, veteran Guy Cupit argued that 3M, which has not filed for bankruptcy, now cannot argue that it is not responsible for its subsidiary’s products because it failed to present that defense during three years of litigation.
In its response to Cupit, 3M argued that it was not required to raise that defense in any individual case, because it had preserved its right to raise any defense in its response to the so-called main lawsuit used throughout the multidistrict litigation.
Another veteran, Richard Valle, last Wednesday asked Rodgers to issue an injunction barring 3M from taking any legal action to prevent plaintiffs from filing earplug claims in district court. He said she had the authority to do so under the All Writs Act, an 18th-century federal law that gives federal courts the power to issue any order “necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions.”
3M countered that the All Writs Act did not allow Rodgers to overcome the clear legal authority of the bankruptcy court.
The MDL is In re 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Litigation Litigation, US District Court, Northern District of Florida, No. 19-md-2885.
For the plaintiffs: Adam Wolfson of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Ashley Keller of Postman Keller; Bryan Aylstock, Daniel Thornburgh, and Jennifer Hoekstra of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz; Shelley Hutson of Clark, Love & Hutson; Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss; and Joseph Messa of Messa & Associates
For 3M: Kimberly Branscome of Dechert; and Jessica Lauria of White & Case
Veterans seek to block 3M bankruptcy gambit
3M to spin off healthcare business, earplug unit seeks bankruptcy protection
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