Thousands of lawsuits accuse 3M of selling defective earplugs to the United States military. Now a federal court judge in Pensacola, Florida is being asked to weigh in on the matter. Both 3M and the plaintiff in one case have filed motions for summary judgment. Essentially, this is a request to have the judge end the case and decide in one party’s favor.

In other words, 3M wants the judge to toss the case, while the plaintiff wants the judge to decide that the evidence is so overwhelming that a jury trial isn’t necessary. Here’s what you need to know.

3M Says It Complied With Requested Government Specifications

Lawsuits against 3M allege that the company’s military earplugs are defective because they don’t block out sound. Part of the reason for this is that the earplugs don’t fit in the ears properly. As a result, service members were not protected from loud sounds and dangerous levels of noise.

In its motion for summary judgment, 3M explains that the initial earplug design was different from the design that made its way into military units across the nation. Specifically, 3M says that the government asked the company to shorten the earplug by about a quarter of an inch so that the devices wouldn’t interfere with helmet straps. Additionally, shorter plugs could be tucked away more easily into standard-issue cases. 3M says that it redesigned the plugs to accommodate these requests. However, when testing the new design, 3M discovered a potential issue. The device didn’t fit as well. But, they identified a solution. One end of the plug could be folded back to create a tighter seal. 3M is adamant that they brought this information to the government.

Based on this information, 3M argues that because it “worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the CAEv2 product, and its design reflected the direction and feedback of individuals acting on the military’s behalf,” the company is not responsible for resulting damage.

So, 3M is basically saying that if there’s a problem with the design it’s not their fault.

Plaintiffs Claim Earplugs Lacked Necessary Warnings

Plaintiffs in the Florida lawsuit, on the other hand, argue that 3M’s excuses are without basis. They argue that the company shouldn’t be allowed to blame the government and get away without taking responsibility for damage caused by a product they designed. In support of their motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs point out that the earplug in question was never formally approved by the government. Instead, the military relied on admittedly false documentation supplied by 3M. In fact, they point out, 3M agreed to pay more than $9 million to the government over these falsifications. That, alone, shows that the company knew about the defective but decided to deceive the military, anyway.

What Can Happen When Both Parties File For Summary Judgment

So, a federal judge has been asked to end a case by both sides. This isn’t unusual. It’s fairly common for parties to file a motion for summary judgment. In fact, this kind of motion can be filed at almost any time during the legal process. If a party feels as if the evidence and circumstances are overwhelmingly in the favor, they’ll ask a judge to intervene and end things to save time and unnecessary legal costs.

So, what can the judge decide to do here? There are two options. The judge can reject both motions for summary judgment. In that case, the lawsuit would move forward. Alternatively, the judge can decide to grant one of the motions and deny the other. That would effectively end the lawsuit. However, whichever party lost would almost certainly appeal the decision to a higher court.

Note that the judge’s decision would only have a direct effect on this individual case. However, other judges, attorneys, and parties across the country would certainly look at the result and determine if and how it can be leveraged in their favor. If 3M wins, the company would, without a doubt, use the same strategy and arguments in the other 3M earplug injury lawsuits it is defending against.