July 19, 2022Published Article

Benson Quoted in Law360's "Top Product Liability Cases Of 2022: Midyear Review"


Major product liability cases so far in 2022 include a ruling in West Virginia against local governments seeking relief from drug distributors for the ravages of the opioid crisis and a historic settlement with gunmaker Remington to end claims brought by the families of Sandy Hook victims.

Other cases include setbacks for Monsanto in appeals of multimillion-dollar jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs who said the company's Roundup weedkiller caused their cancers.

Here is Law360's list of top product liability cases so far in 2022...


3M Earplug Trial Verdicts Pile Up

Six bellwether trials over 3M's allegedly defective earplugs took place in the first half of 2022, bringing the total number of trials to 16. Of those trials, selected from an initial set of cases pulled from the litigation consolidated in Florida federal court, there have been 10 wins for veterans and service members who say that the CAEv2 earplugs failed to protect their hearing, and the verdicts have awarded nearly $300 million in total damages.

For its part, 3M argues the military bears some responsibility for how the earplugs were designed and delivered.

The most recent verdict of $77.5 million, which was also the largest, was handed down in May to James Beal, who was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $72.5 million in punitive damages for his bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss.

The multidistrict litigation was created in April 2019, and includes cases brought by hundreds of thousands of military veterans and service members. The cases allege 3M and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC supplied CAEv2 earplugs to the military that were defective.

The trials have drawn attorneys' attention because of the size of the MDL, the speed at which cases have progressed and the unusual number of bellwether trials.

"Typically in multidistrict litigation, you do a couple of bellwethers. There's some level of consistency in the outcomes and then from that, the parties can figure out a way to potentially resolve the broader spectrum of multidistrict litigation cases," said Paul Benson of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. "But as far as I can tell, from an outsider's perspective, the 3M bellwethers are all over the map."

In June, the federal judge overseeing the litigation ordered the parties to start mediation and try to come to a good faith settlement before district courts are "flooded" with cases from the MDL.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers said the MDL is at a "critical juncture," with all evidence necessary to evaluate claims from the plaintiffs having been identified, and the recent conclusions of bellwether cases giving the parties a clear idea of the risks and likely outcomes of litigation.

The MDL is In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:19-md-02885, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

To read the entire Law360 article, please click here. 

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