U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers, in whose Florida court the lawsuits have been consolidated, on Friday ordered Roman to attend mediation talks in Pensacola on May 25 and 26, so that he may “listen and engage directly with the mediators.” The mediation so far has been “encouraging,” but it requires 3M senior leadership to push ahead, Rodgers said in her order.
Roman’s attendance will ensure that 3M’s board will have “firsthand knowledge of the current state of the negotiations” when evaluating any settlement offer, Rodgers said.
3M has sought to resolve the lawsuits brought by veterans and members of the military who allege that 3M’s combat arms earplugs were defective and damaged their hearing through the bankruptcy of its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC, which manufactured the earplugs.
3M had opposed efforts to renew mediation efforts in Florida federal court while Aearo’s bankruptcy case is pending. Previous efforts reached an impasse in January, as 3M and the earplug plaintiffs focused their attention on Aearo’s bankruptcy.
3M was ordered earlier this month to resume mediation.
A company spokesman said Monday that 3M continues to believe that Aearo’s bankruptcy provides a better option for resolving the earplug claims “more quickly, with more certainty and with more balanced recoveries among claimants.”
Aearo’s bankruptcy strategy has been fiercely opposed by plaintiffs, who said that 3M was merely trying to escape litigation in Florida, following a series of unfavorable legal rulings and trial losses.
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