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Dec. 3, 2022

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Judge orders 3M back to mediation over massive military earplug litigation

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The federal judge overseeing a mountain of military earplug litigation against 3M has ordered the company and plaintiffs to reacommence settlement talks.

The ruling comes after 3M failed last week to move resolution of more than 220,000 military earplug cases from a U.S. District Court in Florida to a bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs — all active or retired military members — claim the earplugs were defective, causing hearing damage.

Within 30 days, attorneys for 3M and plaintiffs must attend a multi-day mediation session held by a court-appointed special master, said a Tuesday order from Casey Rodgers, the U.S. District Court judge in northern Florida presiding over the military earplug lawsuits.

The time “could not be riper” for a mediated settlement, Rodgers wrote. “This is in everyone’s best interests.”

Both parties must operate in “good faith,” she added.

Rodgers had ordered a mediation session in mid-July, but it went nowhere. In late July — after 3M tried initiated its bankruptcy court gambit— Rodgers said she would look into whether 3M “proceeded in good faith” during the earlier mediation.

3M put its Aearo Technologies subsidiary into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, automatically freezing litigation against Aearo. The subsidiary is also named as a defendant in the earplug suits against 3M.

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