Greatly Exaggerated: The Impact of Bankruptcy on Mass Torts with Jennifer Hoekstra

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When large companies face massive mass tort litigation, one way they can survive is to file for bankruptcy protection and reorganize.  3M recently put its Aearo Technologies subsidiary into bankruptcy in the face of more than 230,000 claims  that’s its defective earplugs caused hearing loss.  When it came to filing bankruptcy 3M said Aearo was solely responsible for the product. But for several years of litigation 3M argued that it, as the parent, was solely responsible, not its various subsidiaries. That was a strategy that was beneficial to the company in multidistrict litigation.

Why did 3M suddenly change course? What impact does bankruptcy have on claimants? Could corporations use bankruptcy law to neuter mass tort litigation for all eternity?  And how did the strategy sit with the federal magistrate judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation?

Joining me to discuss this incredibly complex litigation is Jennifer M. Hoekstra , a partner with Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz. Jennifer has been involved in all varieties of complex litigation since 2007, focusing on mass torts, drug and device litigation, and others.  She has a J.D. from Tulane, which she earned while also completing a certificate in Environmental Law. She has actively served as trial counsel or an integral member of the trial team in several of the 3M Earplug trials securing nearly $300 million in compensatory damages for military veterans. Jennifer shared her insights on the intersection of complex mass torts and bankruptcy, an intersection that wasn’t originally on her roadmap. 

This podcast is the audio companion to the Journal on Emerging Issues in Litigation. The Journal is a collaborative project between HB Litigation Conferences and the Fastcase legal research family, which includes Full Court Press, Law Street Media, and Docket Alarm. The podcast itself is a joint effort between HB and our friends at Law Street Media. If you have comments or wish to participate in one our projects please drop me a note at

P.S. During the podcast I mentioned an article and wanted to share the link. It’s called “Bankruptcy Grifters” by Lindsey D. Simon. It was published in the Yale Law Journal.