3M Settles Earplug Litigation for $6B

3M Settles Earplug Litigation for $6B

The Maplewood-based manufacturing giant is set to pay the settlement between 2023 and 2029.

3M Co. and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies have agreed to a $6 billion settlement of a lawsuit accusing the companies of knowingly selling dysfunctional Combat Army Earplugs to the military.

The litigation against the Maplewood-based manufacturing giant and its subsidiary is the product of the 2019 consolidation of over 200,000 individual lawsuits filed by military service members and veterans who claimed that the earplugs sold by 3M had led to hearing damage and tinnitus.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs expect near-universal acceptance of the settlement from the plaintiffs — a requirement for full payouts from 3M, according to the Star Tribune. 

Under the settlement agreement announced Monday, 3M will pay $6 billion between 2023 and 2029.  The payment will come from $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in 3M common stock, according to a 3M news release issued Tuesday.

In the statement, 3M noted that the settlement is not an admission of liability.

In a Tuesday report, The Wall Street Journal noted that the sum was less than what some analysts had expected.

This adds to many settlement agreements agreed upon by the manufacturer over the past years.

In June of this year, 3M agreed to pay as much as $12.5 billion to local governments for introducing “forever chemicals” into their water supplies. This is in addition to an $850 million settlement with Minnesota in 2018 over its use of PFAS chemicals PFOS and PFOA, which centered around a 150-square-mile plume of contaminated groundwater that impacted more than 170,000 people in Washington County.

In 2018, 3M agreed to a $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in response to allegations of defective product sales. This settlement also did not prove that 3M was at fault, as the company’s payment settled the dispute before a conclusive determination of liability.