3M hit with $6M in damages after earplug trial

EDITORS NOTE: ARMY PHOTOS WERE SUPPLIED BY PLAINTIFF DAVE HENDERSON, A U.S. FIRST LIEUTENANT DURING DEPLOYMENTS TO IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.

Industrial giant 3M was found liable on Friday for hearing damage suffered by three U.S. military veterans, who accused the company of covering up design defects in its earplugs.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs $830,500 in compensatory damages and $6.3 million in punitive damages, a major blow to 3M which faces 200,000 similar lawsuits.

The company was accused of hiding design flaws, fudging test results and failing to instruct the military in proper use of the earplugs, which were used by the Army between 2007 and 2013.

3M, which makes a wide range of products including face masks and Post-It notes, said in a statement after the verdict that it did not believe the plaintiffs met their burden in proving the plugs were defectively or negligently designed or that the plugs caused injuries, adding that it believed there were multiple grounds for appeal.

Shares of 3M on the New York Stock Exchange fell more than a percent after the verdict.