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3M begins payments to veterans in $6 billion earplug settlement

3M has started sending payments as part of its previously announced $6 billion settlement to resolve almost 300,000 lawsuits alleging that the manufacturing company supplied faulty combat earplugs to the military that resulted in injuries such as hearing loss. (Provided Photo/3M)

New York (CNN) — 3M has started sending payments as part of its previously announced $6 billion settlement to resolve almost 300,000 lawsuits alleging that the manufacturing company supplied faulty combat earplugs to the military that resulted in significant injuries, such as hearing loss.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it has begun sending out approximately $250 million in payments to service members and veterans, with payouts being completed by the end of January.

3M said in a statement that it has received “strong and widespread support from claimants and the broader military community” for the settlement. “This support has helped the parties and the courts reach the next milestone set forth in the agreement toward full implementation of the settlement.”

More than 30,000 have agreed to the lawsuit so far. However, it’s unclear how much money each individual claimant will receive. A website has been set up for claimants for more information.

3M has previously said the agreement is “not an admission of liability” and that the payout will come over several years and encompass $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in stock.

“The products at issue in this litigation are safe and effective when used properly. 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation if certain agreed terms of the settlement agreement are not fulfilled,” the company said.

At issue are earplugs that were used by the US military in training and combat from 2003 to 2015. Veterans accused 3M of selling defective earplugs that caused hearing loss and tinnitus, according to a 2021 Wall Street Journal report.

The earplugs were made by Aearo Technologies, a company 3M bought in 2008. Aearo tried filing for bankruptcy in 2022 as a way to fund its liabilities and limit exposure. However, that move was dismissed last summer by a judge, who said that “allowing an otherwise financially healthy debtor with no impending solvency issues to remain in bankruptcy … exceeds the boundaries of the court’s limited jurisdiction.”

This week, Aearo and 3M said they will “continue to work with all parties and the courts toward full implementation of the settlement agreement and will provide updates as additional milestones are reached.”