COMBAT ARMS LITIGATION PROGRESSES AS JUDGE OPENS DISCOVERY
Via a pretrial order issued June 20, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the 3M dual-sided earplugs multidistrict litigation (MDL) opened up a time of discovery for parties involved. Discovery is used by parties to exchange information on common issues that may apply to many or all the claims involved in the multidistrict litigation.
Active American military members and veterans across the nation are raising similar allegations that 3M knowingly sold the U.S. military dangerously defective earplugs, contributing to the hearing loss and tinnitus of unaware servicemembers. Thousands of claims against corporate giant 3M currently pend in the federal court system, all of which now centralized in the Northern District of Florida before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. Though, as more product liability attorneys review and file lawsuits on behalf of veterans impacted by 3M’s allegedly faulty earplugs, lawsuit numbers are expected to increase into the tens of thousands.
After pending lawsuits were centralized before Judge Rodgers in April of 2019, a stay was placed on any discovery so pretrial proceedings could be organized in the MDL. These proceedings included selecting earplug lawyers to serve in leadership roles for the discovery period and setting up protocols for exchanging information about the earplug cases. Judge Rogers revealed the new discovery plan after a case management conference in June, a plan that covers the first phase of the litigation.
By order of the discovery plan, by June 27, 2019 defendants must largely complete early document exchange in preparation for complete document production on September 30, 2019. A status report concerning both party and non-party discovery must be filed by October 31, 2019 along with proposals for dispositive motion practices, case-specific discovery, and bellwether processes. A bellwether process would prepare a small selection of cases for early trial dates to help ascertain how juries might react to evidence and testimonies brought up repeatedly throughout the litigation.
Judge Rodgers is expected to make rulings on motions that effect all claims involved in the 3M MDL as part of the coordinated pretrial and discovery proceedings. Though, if settlements over the 3M earplugs are not reached after the MDL proceedings, individual claims will be remanded back into U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for future, individual trial dates.