3M Combat Arms Settlement!
3M Settlement Update: Mass Tort Special Report from Legalcalls.com by Attorney Jeff Keiser.
The Big Announcement
There is nothing I love more than settlement announcements, and that is what we have for you today – and it’s a doozy!
Earlier this week, 3M announced a $6 billion settlement for the Combat Arms Earplug litigation, marking an end to the largest MDL in US history.
The deal was signed just before the start of another trial in the MDL. The headline remains a stunner – $6 billion!
The master settlement agreement covers the claims of all plaintiffs in MDL 2885 and in Minnesota state court.
The first suits were filed in 2016, with MDL consolidation taking place in 2018, the same year the company settled a whistleblower suit for $9.1 million. This settlement comes after more than four years of litigation, including sixteen bellwether trials.
The lawsuits alleged that from 1999 to 2015, 3M marketed, manufactured, and sold defective earplugs, resulting in tens of thousands of people suffering from hearing loss or other injury.
Liability was always there, as was the largest plaintiff pool in US history. A long run of bellwether trials with largely plaintiff victories paved the way to this settlement.
But upon a first review of the agreement itself, a few points stood out.
First, the agreement requires a participation rate of 98% of the more than 250,000 plaintiffs to keep the settlement alive.
That’s right! 3M can walk away at any time if there is not a 98% rate of participation.
These kinds of things are rarely a problem when it comes to the administration of a large settlement fund like this, but that number definitely stands out. It may be something to keep an eye on as the funds start being distributed.
The structure of the settlement is essentially a two-tiered plan, where some claimants will take the quick cash offer of $8,000 – 10,000, and others will receive a more individualized analysis.
These quick payments, however, will be extremely quick, with some commentators estimating that people could be paid as early as the end of this year.
And while some documentation will be required, it will be minimal, and if your clients have a weaker case, this may be the pathway to get them paid.
Plaintiffs who do not opt into the quick settlement but do want to settle, can prove their case through an as-of-yet unknown algorithm. While we don’t know how this will work just yet, the awards will tend to be on the higher side.
It will all come down to the duration and severity of the disability. Any especially strong cases in your portfolio should consider going down this road, but let’s wait until we know a bit more before offering any guidance.
Plaintiffs’ counsel will work to establish the algorithm with the settlement administrator, John Parker, who certainly does not have an easy job.
An integral aspect of his work will be to make sure that any claimant’s medical debts and other liens are paid before the claimant receives any money.
Not 3M’s First Settlement
In June 2023, 3M settled another massive case, paying $10.3 billion (over 13 years) to public water suppliers that found “forever chemicals” in their water.
The company reacted to these settlements by cutting costs through the elimination of 8,500 jobs (10% of their workforce). As I write these words, 3M’s stock is up 5% on news of the settlement.
Happening Now – Stay Tuned For Details
This just happened, so there will still be some major twists and turns to this story.
But the reality is this – $6 billion to settle these claims is a substantial amount of money, and both 3M and the plaintiffs appear to want this deal to proceed.
Unless something nearly unforeseeable happens, we should be well on our way in the next several weeks and months.
Stay tuned for any developments.
Craig H. Alinder, Vice President