Duluth Woman Settles Lawsuit With 3M Over Injuries Caused By Huffing Driver
A last-minute settlement has brought closure for a Duluth woman who was suing Minnesota-based 3M over injuries she received ten years ago that have left her paralyzed. Ahen Diehl received the settlement just as the case was about to go back to court for a jury trial in State District Court in Duluth.
At the center of the case was whether or not 3M was responsible for the actions and conduct of a man who admitted to huffing 3M Dust Remover just prior to striking Diehl with his vehicle on an East Superior Street sidewalk while she was walking.
The collision occurred in 2012. According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], Robert Nicholas Buehlman - then 29 years old from Bayfield - was driving a vehicle with another passenger. While driving, the passenger testified that "she saw him put an aerosol can to his mouth and push the spray button. Buehlman then blacked out and drove onto the sidewalk".
That's when the vehicle struck Diehl, who "suffered a shattered vertebra, collapsed lung, broken ribs, and bruises all over her body". The injuries left her paralyzed since.
At a later date, Buehlman "pleaded guilty to vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm and four other crimes". His sentence was handed down and he went to prison "for nearly four years".
In 2018, Ahen Diehl brought a lawsuit against 3M, alleging that the company "had reason to know people were using its products while operating vehicles and failed to take adequate steps to prevent it". For their part, 3M discontinued sales of the dust remover product involved in the case and maintained that "it had no duty of care to Diehl and that it was Buehlman's conduct that caused her injuries". In 2019, a judge agreed and the case was tossed out of court.
However, a "split decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals" reinstated the case, saying that "a manufacturer must take steps to protect against unintended yet reasonably foreseeable use of a product it puts on the market".
Further litigation action brought the case to a ruling by Judge Eric Hylden in March 2022 that "the case should be heard by a jury". That jury case was scheduled to start in Duluth in State District Court this week. The advance settlement makes the jury trial moot.
Similar to a case of this standing, "[t]erms of the settlement were confidential and attorneys said they were unable to discuss the case".