Monsour Law Firm’s Record-Breaking $22.5 Million Decision
On Friday, December 10, 2021, as lead counsel in a defective products lawsuit involving combat earplugs, Douglas Monsour won a record-breaking lawsuit against 3M Corporation. While breaking records is always satisfying, what matters most to Monsour Law Firm is that our client was compensated for irreparable hearing damage and the corporation responsible was held responsible for their actions.
“The federal jury’s decision on December 10 shows that 3M are wholly responsible for failing our men and women in uniform and putting profits over the safety of Americans in uniform,” said Douglas Monsour. “Jury after jury is deciding that 3M provided faulty equipment to American soldiers, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus. The justice system continues to show that 3M misled the federal government and the military to secure its contract on false grounds and this litigation is holding 3M accountable.”
3M Knowingly Sold the Military Defective Earplugs
Members of the military are regularly exposed to noise levels that cause hearing loss from heavy machinery, weapons fire and explosives, during training and deployment. Everyone knows this, so the military has been providing protective equipment for decades. The earplugs in question were originally manufactured by Aero Technologies, and had known defects since as early as the year 2000. 3M later bought Aero Technologies, but nobody talked about the defects.
In fact, the opposite occurred. Employees falsified information to make it look like the earplugs complied with military standards. There was even a quick fix that users could have applied to keep them in place and prevent hearing loss, but 3M didn’t talk about that either. And for some people, the earplug flanges were just too small to ever stay in place or seal properly.
3M’s marketing materials claimed the earplugs would protect users exposed to up to 190 decibels of sound. They also stated they provided hearing protection when soldiers wore them repeatedly using shoulder-fired rockets. Their own testing showed the protection provided wasn’t reliable or adequate, and 3M’s internal emails proved they knew repeated exposure often led to failure.
In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations it made false claims when it supplied the military with dual-ended combat earplugs. But at that point, it was already too late to save the hearing of our client Theodore Finley.
Theodore Finley’s Story
In 2006, Theodore Finley was just 19 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He received 3M dual-sided earplugs along with other standard-issue gear and relied on them to provide the levels of hearing protection they promised throughout his training and beyond.
He was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2008. During the initial portion of his deployment, he spent much of his time firing mortars, explosive artillery shells known to well exceed the upper levels of what is safe for hearing. He was also involved in an estimated 400 firefights during his deployment. He served through 2014.
When he returned to the United States, Finley wasn’t exposed to any more loud environments, but the damage was already done. He was diagnosed with hearing loss and tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in both ears and that is often caused by exposure to loud sounds.
At age 33, he received a hearing aid for his injuries, and will need additional follow-ups and hearing aids throughout his lifetime. He also has trouble sleeping and has become more withdrawn, avoiding social situations because of his hearing difficulties.
The Defense’s Argument
The earplugs Finley received as standard issue were used by the military until 2015. The company never issued a recall, and the follow-up version remains in use. During the trial, they tried to make claims like the following:
- Finley could still hear fairly well with his hearing aid (the implication being the impact of his injuries wasn’t so great, despite the fact he has irreversible hearing loss).
- He was fortunate to still have as much hearing as he did considering the noise levels to which he was exposed during his training and service.
- Some of his problems could have come from other injuries he sustained during his service.
- He didn’t file his lawsuit until years after the injuries occurred (since at the time 3M was still hiding the fact their earplugs were defective so the public and the military didn’t know about it).
It’s pretty common in personal injury cases for the defendant to say the plaintiff wasn’t hurt, he or she wasn’t hurt as badly as they claimed, it didn’t really affect their life all that much, or all of the above. The best way to handle it is always by uncovering and presenting evidence.
There’s documentation Aero Technologies and 3M Corporation conducted testing that showed the earplugs weren’t safe (in some cases up to 80 percent of ear plugs failed), and that they disregarded or cherry-picked results. Their own marketing materials show they knowingly misrepresented the level of protection they offered, even though they knew military personnel would be exposed to sound levels that would damage their hearing. There’s also medical proof of Finley’s hearing loss. When you put all the puzzle pieces together (which is what we did), it creates a compelling picture.
The Jury’s Response
A federal jury found for the plaintiff on all claims. They concluded Finley’s injuries were the result of fraud, malice and or gross negligence by 3M and awarded Finley $22.5 million. Of that, $1.5 million was for the pain and suffering he has already endured, $6 million was for future pain and suffering and $15 million was for exemplary or punitive damages.
Personal Injury at the Gym
If you made a commitment to getting in shape starting January 2022 and you’ve been hitting the gym, you’ve probably noticed the place is packed. Up to 95 percent of New Year’s resolutions are fitness related. You probably already know a lot of people don’t keep them, but sometimes the lapse isn’t due to a lack of commitment.
Sometimes the reason people quit is due to no fault of their own. That’s especially true for those who receive a personal injury at the gym.
4 Common Gym Injury Causes
A lot of the most common gym injuries happen because people are doing unfamiliar exercises so they do them incorrectly, because their ego gets in the way or because they jump in too quickly. Here’s a list of the most common fitness center injury causes:
- Not warming up – Cold muscles aren’t ready to work hard. When people don’t take time to warm up and stretch, they risk injury. They also might not notice existing issues until the muscle is already under strain.
- Using bad form – Improper form stresses muscles, ligaments and joints. It also can reduce an exercise’s effectiveness.
- Lifting too much weight – If your ego gets involved, or if you overestimate what you’re capable of, you can end up with major problems.
- Overtraining – When people want to see results fast, sometimes they spend too much time at the gym, and their body can’t recover in between sessions. Tired and inflamed muscles, ligaments and joints are more vulnerable to injury.
When people try to do too much, too soon injuries occur to the back, knees, shoulders, ankles and other areas. If you’re working toward better fitness this January, use caution to make sure you don’t end up in worse shape than when you started.
Fitness Centers and Personal Injury
Sometimes people experience injury that doesn’t have anything to do with their training habits and everything to do with someone else’s negligence. The problem might have started with a personal trainer, the gym owner, outside contractors who are responsible for maintaining gym equipment or other people working out at the same fitness center. You might have a personal injury claim if you were hurt at the gym by
- Defective fitness center equipment
- Unsafe or unsanitary gym conditions
- Employee negligence
- A slip and fall
- Reckless or aggressive gym members
- Any other situation where someone at the gym was negligent
For example, let’s talk about treadmill injuries. One of the most commonly used pieces of equipment at fitness centers across the nation can also be one of the most dangerous.
If your injury occurred because a treadmill malfunctioned, safety mechanisms were missing or broken or the fitness center isn’t properly maintained, it’s possible someone’s negligence caused your injury. The same is true for stair climbers, stationary bikes, elliptical machines and similar equipment.
What About Liability Waivers?
When you joined your gym, you probably signed a liability waiver covering the fitness center in case you got injured. Most people believe because of this waiver, there’s nothing they can do if they get hurt.
If you dropped a dumbbell on your foot and broke it, or you slipped and fell because your feet were wet when you got out of the gym shower, those are accidents. But if a poorly maintained treadmill caused you to slip and fall and while you were waiting for the ambulance, you heard one employee confide to another they had been telling the owner for months that particular treadmill had a problem, that’s negligence.
If you were injured at the gym and it was someone else’s fault, the best thing to do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney. At Monsour Law Firm, initial consultations are always free and you never pay us anything unless you receive a settlement in your case.
What are Punitive Damages?
Personal injury claims are based on the idea that when someone gets hurt due because of what another person did or didn’t do, the hurt person deserves money to make up for what they suffer. Sometimes the defendant should have known (and maybe they did know) better, but they were more irresponsible or lazy than flat out malicious.
Other times, what they did was so wrong the court wants to make an example of them and punish them for their actions. Punitive damages might be awarded on top of compensatory damages.
Punitive vs. Compensatory
Every time someone gets hurt, it’s not just physical. There’s always a psychological and emotional aspect involved in both the event and the recovery. People feel everything from irritation to frustration to depression to hopelessness or rage. Compensatory damages are meant to recompense you for the physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering you experienced.
Punitive damages are about punishment. They are awarded in cases where the circumstances that led to your injury are so egregious the court or jury believes the person responsible deserves to be punished, both so they don’t do it again and to deter others from making the same mistake.
Real Life Examples of Punitive Damages
One of the most recent examples of punitive or exemplary damages occurred in a Monsour Law Firm case involving a U.S. Army soldier and 3M Corporation. We proved 3M knowingly sold the military defective ear plugs and our client suffered hearing damage as a result. In that case, exemplary damages totaled $15 million dollars.
Another famous example is the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. When 79-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled coffee in her lap and received burns so severe she required skin grafts, she asked McDonalds to pay her medical bills, and the chain refused.
During the trial, the jury discovered McDonald’s knew their coffee could cause injury and hadn’t done anything about it. They awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages.
However, punitive damages aren’t always awarded when it seems like they should be. On March 6, 2000 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a preliminary inquiry that led to an investigation into the high incidents of accidents involving Ford Explorers and other light trucks and SUVs using Firestone tires. It became evident that both companies knew they had a problem and chose to ignore it until it became an international crisis.
Hundreds of U.S. citizens were killed and even more injured when tire failure caused rollover. Those numbers are much higher internationally. As you can imagine, lawsuits were filed. Most of the outcomes were kept confidential, but Ford’s financial statements show it spent $590 million settling related lawsuits, and Firestone delegated $800 million for cases related to the associated tires.
Punitive Damages and Your Case
If you were injured because of someone else’s actions, it’s normal to get upset about it and even to feel like they should face some kind of punishment. Punitive damages are almost tied to the severity of the defendant’s bad behavior. They’re proportionate to their wealth (you’ve probably heard you can’t get blood out of a turnip) and connected to the level of injury, harm or damage that the injured party received. They’re more likely to be awarded when the defendant acted fraudulently, intentionally and/or willfully to cause harm.
If you experienced significant injury because of someone else, talking with a personal injury attorney can help. We offer free consultations to answer your questions and explore your options, and we don’t charge a fee unless you receive a settlement.
Injured in an ATV Accident?
There’s a reason outdoorsy people from outer states call them “Texas Wheelchairs.” ATVs, quads and four-wheelers can be a lot of fun, but they’re also dangerous. If you or someone you care about was hurt in an ATV accident, you may feel like you’re in uncharted territory. There’s a lot of information on what to do after a car accident, but what are the next steps when your accident involves an all-terrain vehicle?
ATV Accident Statistics
In the years the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been gathering data on ATV fatalities, Texas has almost always been at the top of the list in terms of the number of people killed. Other most deadly states include California, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, in that order.
Some of the most disturbing ATV accident statistics are those involving children. For example, in 2016, more than 26% of all ATV injuries involved kids under 16, and 27 percent of those had injuries to the head or neck. There are a number of potential reasons the numbers are so high.
First, individuals under 16 are often given permission to drive off-road vehicles or four-wheelers when they don’t have enough training or experience to know how vehicles respond in different conditions. Seat belts aren’t mandatory, so passengers aren’t secure when collisions or rollovers happen. Kids are more likely to engage in risk taking or stunt behavior, and the terrain they travel is often unknown.
ATV Accident Causes
People get hurt while driving or riding in all-terrain vehicles because the unexpected happens and/or someone isn’t behaving responsibly. These are some of the most common reasons an off-road adventure turns into a disaster.
- Drivers take to the pavement – All terrain vehicles don’t handle like regular vehicles on concrete and asphalt. They’re built to flex, grab on and adjust to rough natural surfaces. Plus, drivers aren’t looking for ATVs on regular roadways.
- Inexperience – Whether you’re 16 or 60, if you’ve never driven or ridden in an all-terrain vehicle before, do your research ahead of time. Get some training before you head out on your own.
- Drinking and driving – Driving under the influence is just as dangerous, and just as stupid in an ATV as it is in a car, truck or motorcycle.
- Driving irresponsibly – People get caught up in the adventure and push the envelope, seeking an even bigger adrenaline rush by taking chances. Sometimes the people riding with them even encourage it.
- Mechanical failure – All-terrain vehicles are supposed to be built rugged, but sometimes they come with faulty parts. Modification is popular, but it also increases the risk of breakage or unpredictable wear and tear.
- Unfamiliar terrain – If you’ve never been in an area, no matter how experienced you are, it’s best to take it slow. If you can’t see what’s ahead, get out and walk it to scout for hazards.
Personal Injury and Off-Road Vehicles
If you or someone you love gets injured in an off-road vehicle accident and you believe someone else caused their injury, do you have any recourse? Like with any other type of personal injury claim, it all boils down to proving (1.) The person who caused the accident had a duty to the victim, (2.) They breached that duty, (3.) The breach caused the accident to occur and (4.) The victim became injured as a result.
At Monsour Law Firm, we’re here to help those injured in Louisiana or Texas. Click here to schedule your free consultation today.