Pensacola, FL – Attorney Bryan Aylstock and his law firm is representing over 10,000 current and former U.S. military service members who have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus allegedly caused by 3M defective military earplugs. “We hold 3M accountable for what they did to our military brothers and sisters and what they did not tell them,” says Aylstock.
Aylstock and his legal team successfully argued in federal court against 3M’s defense, “The government made me do it.” 3M tried to end litigation before it began.
“We always thought 3M was grasping at straws. I viewed this government contract defense as a smoke screen,” says Aylstock. “Being paid by the government doesn’t mean that you have a government contract, particularly when you defraud the government and pay a $9.1 million settlement under the False Claims Act. 3M must accept responsibility for their actions.”
Aylstock says 3M sold its defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs to the military without testing. And after it occurred to them there was no testing, they went ahead with testing but didn’t like results—and then they manipulated test results to get the results they needed to sell the earplug! Neither the military nor the people using the earplugs were told of any defects.
According to the master complaint filed on behalf of all Plaintiffs whose claims are subsumed within MDL No. 2885, “defendants were aware of the defects and risks of the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplug but nonetheless supplied this dangerously defective product to Plaintiffs and the United States military for more than a decade without Plaintiffs or the United States military having any knowledge of those defects and risks.
Aylstock knows how post-traumatic stress disorder is linked to tinnitus – it exacerbates PTSD. “Severe ringing in the ears can bring back memories of injuries suffered. Of course these memories are stronger for some victims than others but overall, tinnitus makes PTSD worse,” he says.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus is the most frequently claimed disability among former service members. In a recent study, the authors described the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in a cohort of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (IAV) with common post-deployment condition, including PTSD. They found PTSD and depression significantly associated with increased rates of hearing loss, tinnitus, or both conditions together.
To date, over 200,000 lawsuits are filed in the multi-district litigation (MDL). “Until 3M takes responsibility for their actions, we are proceeding to trial,” says Aylstock. “While MDL’s do take time, even in the best of circumstances, COVID makes it more difficult,” explains Aylstock, “but Judge Rogers has a track record of managing her docket efficiently and effectively for all litigants who come before the Court.” Now that the 3M’s “government made me do it” defense has been shot down, trials will start in April 2021 and bellwether discovery is currently underway.
The master complaint states that, “3M has a dominant market share in virtually every safety product market, including hearing protection devices. Defendant 3M is one of the largest companies in the United States.” 3M’s net income in 2018 was a whopping $5.349 billion with astounding revenue of $32.765 billion, an increase of 3.5 percent from the previous year. Its revenue dropped to $32.14 billion in 2019.
Facing more than 200,000 lawsuits currently filed in the MDL, 3M will likely be facing trial before multiple juries in 2021.
Bryan Aylstock has a family background of military service and a “keen interest” in litigating on behalf of military personnel, he told Bloomberg Law. For managing such a large caseload, “there is no substitute for direct and frequent communication with the people you represent,” he said. “Email communication is preferred by many service members due to their hearing issues, and we also speak regularly to spouses who are often more aware of the difficulties their loved one is facing.”
Aylstock’s firm has 25 lawyers and 200 support staff for plaintiffs to discuss their situations with. “We have also hired many military veterans as they understand military issues and can effectively communicate with our clients, especially those with hearing loss.”
Source: Lawyers and Settlements
Reporter: Jane Mundy