Advancements in PFAS/AFFF and 3M Earplug Legal Proceedings
Significant legal developments have transpired in connection with the ongoing PFAS/AFFF litigation and related personal injury claims, indicating progress towards resolving several complex legal disputes.
- Preliminary Settlement Approvals: Courts have granted preliminary approval for two significant settlements involving PFAS/AFFF personal injury claims with major corporations including 3M, Dupont/Chemours/Corteva, and Public Water Systems.
- Settlement Scheduling: Judge Gergel has scheduled final approval hearings for the Dupont-related settlement on December 14, 2023, and for the 3M settlement on February 2, 2024, moving the litigation process forward.
- 3M Earplug Compensation Agreement: 3M has agreed to a substantial settlement, ranging between $5.5 to $6 billion, to compensate victims who suffered hearing loss or tinnitus due to the company’s defective earplugs, with a payment schedule spanning over five years.
- Impact on 3M’s Financial Outlook: The settlements are expected to provide a clearer path for 3M in resolving its extensive PFAS/AFFF personal injury claims, potentially stabilizing the company’s stock price and credit ratings.
- Bellwether Trial Program Amendments: Adjustments have been made to the schedule and process for selecting Initial Personal Injury Bellwether Discovery Pool Plaintiffs, with detailed steps outlined for the selection and discovery process leading up to the trials, ensuring a structured approach to these complex cases.
On August 22, the presiding judge of the Multi-District Litigation (MDL), Judge Gergel, overcame multiple objections to provisionally sanction the settlement proposal between Dupont/Chemours/Corteva and Public Water Systems (PWS). He has scheduled a hearing on December 14, 2023, to consider final approval of this accord.
In a subsequent move on August 29, Judge Gergel granted preliminary approval to a settlement between 3M and PWS after revisions that addressed concerns raised by state attorney generals. A final judgment on this settlement is anticipated at a hearing slated for February 2, 2024.
These orders align with Judge Gergel’s prior comments emphasizing the benefits of settlement agreements in judicial efficiency and the protracted timelines for dissenting parties to receive court consideration.
Additionally, a noteworthy settlement was publicized on August 29, 2023, when 3M agreed to a compensation package valued between $5.5 to $6 billion over a five-year period for plaintiffs affected by the company’s defective earplugs. This settlement follows extensive litigation, including 16 bellwether trials and the dismissal of an Aearo bankruptcy filing deemed to be improperly purposed. Judge Rodgers of the MDL has described the settlement as equitable and has facilitated the publication of details and the administrative roadmap on a dedicated website [https://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/3m-products-liability-litigation-mdl-no-2885], urging involved law firms and claimants to adhere to strict claim submission deadlines.
This settlement is anticipated to positively affect 3M’s financial outlook by potentially resolving one of its major litigation exposures, thereby providing a clearer trajectory for addressing the multitude of PFAS/AFFF personal injury claims.
Updates on the 3M PWS Settlement Agreement and further developments regarding 3M, Dupont/Chemours/Corteva, and PFAS/AFFF litigation will continue to be provided.
LEGAL UPDATE 10.02.23: Revision of Initial Personal Injury Bellwether Trial Schedule
Judge Gergel has released Case Management Order 26A, which amends the schedule for the selection of Initial Personal Injury Bellwether Discovery Pool Plaintiffs, as initially outlined in CMO 26. The exchange and agreement on the selection of proposed Plaintiffs by the parties are now due by November 14. If consensus is not achieved by November 17, alternative selections will be proposed.
By December 1, the parties are required to submit a definitive list of selected or proposed cases, complete with a synopsis of injuries and exposure locations. Disputes over plaintiff representation must also be articulated. From these submissions, Judge Gergel will appoint the 28 Initial Personal Injury Bellwether Discovery Pool Plaintiffs.
The parties are also instructed to confer on the “Personal Injury Tier 1 Discovery” process, aiming to present a unified Discovery Order to the Court by December 1, 2023. This follows the foundational CMO 26, which set forth the parameters for selecting Bellwether Trial Pool Plaintiffs, including specific disease categories and exposure criteria linked to designated military bases.
Counsel for the Plaintiffs has been tasked with selecting 28 Bellwether Discovery Pool Plaintiffs from specified disease categories, adhering to stringent exposure and claim criteria.
The last segment of CMO 26 addresses the need for parties to establish a procedure for managing personal injury claims outside the CMO’s scope, a matter that remains pending further legal documentation and clarification.