3M begins issuing payments to veterans in $6 billion settlement over earplugs

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3M has begun issuing payments as part of its $6 billion settlement, after veterans of the company said its earplugs caused them hearing loss and tinnitus. Pictured here is 3M’s global headquarters in Minnesota on January 2, 2024. Credit – Aaron P. Bauer-Griffin/GC Images—Getty Images

a The supplier of US military earplugs has begun paying the first billions in a settlement to thousands of veterans who claimed in lawsuits that the earplugs caused their hearing loss.

On December 26, 3M paid about $250 million To the Qualified Settlement Fund, which will go to between 25,000 and 30,000 claimants who agreed to have their claims dismissed in exchange. The company said this week that it would pay the amount $253 million By January 31st.

The first wave of damages comes after 3M agreed to pay a total of $6 billion between 2023 and 2029 — $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in 3M stock — to resolve the years-long Combat Arms Earplug lawsuit against 3M and its subsidiary. Aero Technologies.

The company said in a statement It was posted on its website last year This agreement is not an admission of liability. The products at issue in this lawsuit are safe and effective when used properly.

Former 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman He said in a statement In 2022: “We have great respect for the brave men and women who protect us, and we remain committed to the Army as an active partner and valued customer moving forward.”

The current settlement began in 2016 with A lawsuit from a competitor of 3M, Moldex Metric, which alleged that 3M sold “dangerously defective” combat weapon earplugs, standard issue to certain branches of the US military during foreign conflicts between 2003 and 2015, including in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, without disclosing the defect. It “likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus.”

Tinnitus is a A medical condition characterized by ringing in the ears. It has no cure, although treatment can relieve it.

In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9 million to the US Department of Justice To settle allegations that it sold earplugs to the military without disclosing the defect, with no liability assigned.

This settlement was followed by a wave of complaints from thousands of veterans demanding compensation. In one complaint, former soldier Nathan Fry said he began experiencing tinnitus — a constant ringing that sometimes affects his sleep — while serving. service From 2011 to 2015, CNBC reported.

Those suits have been consolidated In one case In the northern region of Florida. As of the beginning of this year, There were 276,568 Plaintiffs with pending lawsuits in this case.

to rule Aearo bankruptcy dismissed The claim was filed last June, leaving the company on the hook for paying damages, which it agreed to in August.

TIME has reached out to 3M and the plaintiffs’ attorneys for information on when more payments are expected and how many claimants will receive them.

call us at letters@time.com.

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