Thousands of U.S. soldiers have filed lawsuits alleging hearing loss, tinnitus, and other health problems linked to their use of 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs. A large number of these cases now make up the 3M Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2885, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Currently, this MDL, or multi-district litigation, is in the discovery phase. This means each side is requesting and producing information that may serve as evidence at a future trial. But that doesn't mean new plaintiffs can't join the MDL or otherwise bring their own lawsuit.
For prospective plaintiffs wondering whether they should sue, one concern might be whether they will have to testify. The short answer is yes. The only real question is when and where.
There are two potential times when a plaintiff in a defective 3M earplugs case (or almost any other personal injury case) will need to testify. The first is during discovery, when the defendant asks to take the plaintiff's deposition.
A deposition is a live question-and-answer session where an individual answers questions under oath. A defendant will want to take a plaintiff's deposition for a number of reasons, including:
Learn more about depositions in personal injury cases.
The second situation in which a plaintiff might testify is at trial. Most 3M combat earplug cases will likely settle (as most personal cases do), so trial is rare, and a plaintiff is not legally required to testify, but they typically will. A plaintiff's testimony can be very compelling, especially to a juror. Almost no other piece of evidence from the plaintiff will be able to convey the extent of the harm and other losses the plaintiff has experienced.
For example, imagine a doctor testifying as an expert witness and describing the nature of the plaintiff's hearing damage. The doctor will probably discuss scientific ways of measuring the plaintiff's hearing loss or the ringing sound the plaintiff now experiences. Now compare the doctor's testimony to that of the plaintiff describing how, because of hearing loss, they missed out on hearing their child's first words.
The plaintiff's testimony may also be necessary to counter a defense argument. For instance, 3M might say that even if the earplugs were defective, they might still have protected the plaintiff's hearing if used differently.
It's likely that the plaintiff will at least need to testify in a deposition. The purpose of discovery is to learn of any potential evidence each side may have for trial. And a key piece of information gathering comes with the deposition. At a minimum, it will give the defendant an idea of what to expect from the plaintiff should they testify at trial.
While the plaintiff's deposition may not be as important as an expert witness' deposition, there's still a good chance the defendant will want to use the opportunity to ask the plaintiffs almost any question relating to the case.
The defendant is especially likely to want the plaintiff's deposition if they have a suspicion that the true nature and extent of injuries are different from what's being claimed.
The chances of a plaintiff testifying at trial are much lower. That's primarily because most cases settle before they ever get to trial. Assuming the case goes to trial, it's likely that the plaintiff's testimony will help because:
Bottom line: At trial, the most effective evidence will usually be the plaintiff's own words.
If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over hearing loss or other harm caused by defective 3M combat earplugs, you and your lawyer will work together to develop the best strategy for your case. Learn more about finding and working with a 3M combat earplugs lawyer.