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Judge orders 3M CEO to attend mediation in major lawsuit

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2023 | Business Law, Mediation

Many people know of mediation as a way of resolving issues in divorce or other very personal legal issues, but it can also be a powerful method for resolving disputes in business and other areas of the law. While mediation is conducted outside of court, judges sometimes order business leaders to attempt to resolve their disputes through mediation.

Recently, a judge ordered the chief executive officer of the giant 3M Co. to attend mediation in a massive lawsuit involving defective earplugs.

The lawsuit

The product liability lawsuit — one of the largest ever of its kind — involves claims by hundreds of thousands of current and former members of the U.S. military, who say their hearing was permanently damaged because the combat earplugs they used did not function properly. The earplugs were manufactured by 3M subsidiary Aearo.

More than 330,000 people have already filed suit against Aearo and 3M, and 16 cases have already gone to trial, with 3M losing 10 of them. Thirteen plaintiffs have already recovered $265 million from 3M. Many of the remaining cases have been consolidated into one massive legal action.

Aearo filed for bankruptcy last year, and 3M has argued that the bankruptcy case must play out before it can deal with any of the remaining earplug litigation. A federal judge ordered 3M to continue with mediation in the case, and just recently ordered 3M’s chief executive to personally attend the talks, which reportedly have made great progress toward a resolution.

Dispute resolution

There are many reasons for businesses to consider using mediation to resolve their disputes, even when courts don’t order them to do so. For one, mediation is generally faster and less expensive than going to trial. Because the goal of mediation is an out-of-court settlement, it can also keep the details of a dispute out of public records.