3M earplug cases sent to state court as federal bellwether dropped
3M Co has lost the latest in a series of bids to move lawsuits alleging that its combat earplugs caused hearing damages from Minnesota state court to federal court, which would have cleared the way for them to be sent to multidistrict litigation in Florida.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim in Minneapolis on Thursday ruled that he lacked jurisdiction over eight lawsuits, including dozens of plaintiffs, rejecting 3M’s arguments that its status as a U.S. military contractor allowed it to raise federal law defenses.
3M spokesperson Fanna Haile-Selassie said the company is confident in its defenses whether they are in state or federal court. Daniel Gustafson of Gustafson Gluek, a lawyer for the state court plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment.
The ruling came a day after a case that was scheduled to go to trial in September as a bellwether in the MDL was voluntarily dropped. A stipulation of dismissal filed Wednesday in Pensacola, Florida, federal court did not give a reason, and Adam Wolfson of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a lawyer for plaintiff Joseph Taylor, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Another bellwether plaintiff will now go to trial in September instead of Taylor, according to Haile-Selassie.
3M is facing more than 240,000 claims by veterans and service members over the earplugs, known as Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2. The vast majority of those are consolidated before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rogers in the Northern District of Florida, in the largest multidistrict litigation in history.
However, about a thousand cases are also pending in Minnesota state court. 3M has tried to remove many of those cases to federal court.
In the cases at issue in Thursday’s ruling, 3M argued that the federal court had jurisdiction because it had defenses under federal law – specifically, the federal contractor defense, which bars state law claims against government contractors for work done under the control of the government, and the combatant activities exception, which may shield contractors from state law claims over battlefield activities.
Tunheim noted that he had rejected both of those arguments in similar cases before, in which he found that the government had little control over the earplugs and 3M did not act similarly to a combatant.
3M raised additional grounds for federal jurisdiction as to one of the plaintiffs who said he suffered hearing damage from the earplugs while working for a military contractor in Japan. The company cited a bilateral agreement between the United States and Japan under which the United States exercised jurisdiction over its base there.
Tunheim, however, said the agreement only extended federal criminal laws to the contractor in Japan, which he said was “obviously of no relevance to a products liability action.”
Three bellwether cases have gone to trial in the MDL, one of which resulted in a $7.1 million verdict for three plaintiffs and another in a $1.7 million verdict for a single plaintiff. 3M won one of the trials.
The case is Adams v. 3M Co et al, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 21-cv-00910, and related cases.
For plaintiffs: Daniel Gustafson of Gustafson Gluek
For 3M: Benjamin Hulse of Blackwell Burke
(NOTE: This story has been updated to include the dismissal of a bellwether case and a comment from 3M.)
More 3M earplug lawsuit information you may be interested in:
- 2 vets to get $110M in 3M earplugs suit
- $22.5 Million Verdict in 3M Combat Earplug Trial
- 3M loses latest in series of military earplug cases
- Bellwether Military Earplug Verdicts Underscores Importance of Establishing Government-Contractor Defense
- 3M earplug cases sent to state court as federal bellwether dropped
- 3M Wins Lawsuit Over Military-Issued Earplugs
- Pensacola jury awards $7.1 million in bellwether case over defective 3M military earplugs
- 3M hit with $6MM punitive damages by U.S. jury in first combat earplug trial
- 3M Forces VA Doctor to Testify About Hearing Exam
- 3M Combat Arms MDL Passes Asbestos as Largest Ever
- Lawsuits against 3M moved to federal court
- 3M Earplug, Roundup, and Hernia Mesh Lawsuits Spike in 2019
- Lawsuit says 3M combat arms earplugs don’t work, cause hearing loss for soldiers
- How defective combat earplugs can cause long-term problems
- Parker Waichman initiates over 500 3M earplug lawsuits
- 3M Combat Earplugs Lawsuit | File Before Trials Start April 2021
- 3M Military Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit
- 53 Lawyers Appointed to Lead 3M Earplug Lawsuits
- MDL Panel Sends Military Service Member’s Lawsuits Faulting 3M Earplugs to Northern District of Florida
- The Pentagon Has Settled A Lawsuit Over Allegedly Defective 3M Earplugs. Now Veterans Are Suing, Too.
- 3M settlement shows how little we care if veterans come home whole
- 3M Conducts Faulty Testing to Obtain Exclusive Military Contract on Earplugs
- Army settlement with earplug maker may lead to more suits by veterans
- Vets with Hearing Loss May Have Defective 3M Earplugs to Blame
- Tinnitus Anyone? 3M Covered Up Its Defective Military Earplugs Since 2000
- Contractor Settles for $9.1M after Providing Defective Earplugs for Troops
- 3M will pay $9M over defective military earplugs
- 3M settles defective combat earplug case for $9.1 million
- Company to pay $9 million after allegedly selling defective combat earplugs to US military
See the original article here: https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/minnesota-3m-earplug-lawsuits-can-stay-state-court-2021-07-29/
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