3M Earplug Settlement Average Payouts | May 2024

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

3M produced and sold earplugs to workers and the military. These earplugs included a flange that prevented users from pushing them deep enough into the ear canal to stay in place. Service members, construction workers, and other earplug users suffered hearing problems as a result of the poor fit. Even after finding out about the flange, the users alleged that 3M failed to fix the product or instruct users to fold the flange.

At their peak, over 3M faced over 390,000 product liability lawsuits. Roughly 270,000 of these earplug lawsuits survived. Most of the cases dismissed simply failed to provide enough personal information, like Social Security numbers and addresses, for the court to allow them to go forward.

Each remaining case has its own merits and value, which makes it unique. This uniqueness means the payout amount also varies with each case. This article will give you some insight into the average compensation amount and highlight different categories of expected payouts that plaintiffs may get from a 3M earplug lawsuit.

Where Does the 3M Earplug Lawsuit Settlement Stand?

3M is currently paying settlements to anyone willing to accept a “global” settlement of their claims. To understand what this means, you must first understand how injured plaintiffs got to this point.

3M did not face a class action lawsuit. Instead, the 270,000 claims were filed as individual lawsuits. But the federal court system consolidated them under a single judge using a process called multidistrict litigation (MDL).

The MDL cases remained separate, and each had a separate schedule. However, the cases were handled together during pretrial discovery and motions so the cases could be handled efficiently without bogging down the courts.

The different schedules meant that some went to trial while others were still pending. The result was that 11 “bellwether” cases went to trial, setting the standard for later settlements and damage awards.

After these 11 trials, 3M looked at its record and proposed a global settlement worth $6 billion. You could accept the settlement if you had a case pending in the MDL. More importantly, those without pending cases can still submit a claim to become eligible for a share of the global settlement. Finally, victims can opt out of the global settlement and file an individual lawsuit.

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3M Earplug Settlement Payouts

The global settlement of $6 billion averages out to roughly $22,000 per pending case. However, this average is misleading because a claimant’s payout depends on their payout tier based on the injuries they suffered.

When will a 3M earplug lawsuit payout arrive? Victims who accepted the global settlement have started receiving checks. 3M has not released its formula for calculating payouts. But those who have already received checks fall into five categories:

  • $5,000 for undocumented tinnitus without hearing loss
  • $10,000 for documented tinnitus without hearing loss
  • $10,000 for 15 to 19 dB of hearing loss
  • $16,000 for 20 to 39 dB of hearing loss
  • $24,000 for 40 dB or more hearing loss

Since 3M has kept the tiers secret, these numbers might be affected by other factors as well. However, the severity of the injury seems to be the most influential factor.

3M Earplug Lawsuit Average Payout

Victims do not need to accept the global settlement. For many victims, these numbers seem small compared to the effects of permanent hearing loss. Although the sample size is small, with only 11 bellwether cases, some victims might choose to reject the global 3M earplug settlement and pursue an individual lawsuit.

The individual lawsuits that went to trial included six wins by 3M and five wins by victims. But the wins by victims were substantial.

In 2021, the first verdict in a 3M earplug lawsuit resulted in a damage award of $7.1 million for three army veterans. This number broke down to $2.45 million, $2.42 million, and $2.26 million for the three plaintiffs.

3M won the second case. But in the third case, the plaintiff won $1.7 million. The judge reduced the payout by 38% because the jury found that the plaintiff’s misuse of the products partly contributed to the injuries. However, the plaintiff still recovered $1.1 million.

The ensuing eight cases swung in 3M’s favor, with five defense wins and only three plaintiff wins. But the damage awards were staggering. Plaintiffs won awards of $8.2 million, $13 million, and $22 million in part due to large punitive damage awards.

Juries award punitive damages to punish egregious behavior and send a message to other companies to deal honestly with their customers. In product liability cases, punitive damages often arise in cases where manufacturers know of a problem with their products but take no action to recall them, fix them, or warn customers about them.

What is the average payout for the 3M earplug lawsuit? Based on these bellwether cases, the 3M earplug lawsuit individual settlement amounts mean $3.59 million per plaintiff, even when you account for the plaintiffs who recovered nothing because they lost their cases.

Make Informed Decisions About Your Claim

The decision to accept the global 3M earplug settlement or pursue an individual lawsuit is not easy. To understand the cost and benefits of each option, you may need to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced lawyer.

ConsumerShield will evaluate your case for free and connect you with a lawyer you can use in your claim. Contact us for your free claim review.

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