A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday refused to block more than 230,000 lawsuits accusing 3M Co of selling allegedly defective earplugs to the U.S. military from moving forward, saying the bankruptcy of the subsidiary that made them did not necessarily protect the parent company.
3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in Indiana on July 26, seeking to resolve lawsuits alleging that 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) caused hearing loss.
The lawsuits have been consolidated in federal court in Florida and have grown into the largest mass tort litigation in U.S. history. Aearo placed $1 billion in a trust to settle them and agreed to indemnify 3M for all liability related to CAEv2.
3M has denied liability, saying its earplugs offered protection to soldiers while allowing them to hear on the battlefield.
Companies that file for bankruptcy typically receive an immediate reprieve from lawsuits, buying them time to address their debts and restructuring goals. But plaintiffs argue that 3M should not benefit from that legal shield because it is bankrupt.