Thousands of military veterans and servicemembers are expected to pursue lawsuits against 3M Company over defective combat earplugs the company sold to the United States military, which they allege caused them to suffer hearing loss, tinnitus and other debilitating hearing problems. According to the 3M litigation, the government contractor knew that the military earplugs were defectively designed and sold them to the military anyway, putting thousands of military servicemembers at risk for serious hearing problems. If you or someone you love has suffered tinnitus, hearing loss or another problem allegedly caused by defective 3M combat earplugs, our consumer advocates at Leading Justice can help. We are committed to protecting the rights of individuals harmed by defective consumer products, and we can help put you in touch with an experienced product liability lawyer.
3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs
The earplugs at the center of the ongoing litigation are 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), which were sold to the Defense Logistics Agency without any warnings regarding the potential for defects in the earplug design to decrease the effectiveness of the hearing protection the devices offered wearers. The dual-ended combat earplugs were designed to protect military servicemembers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in training in the United States, from high-level noises like heavy artillery and rockets, while still allowing them to communicate with one another. Unfortunately, the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and this design defect prevented them from maintaining a tight seal during use. As a result, the earplugs failed to provide the wearer with the expected level of noise protection and therefore increased the risk of hearing problems like hearing loss and tinnitus.
The allegedly defective earplugs were originally made by Aearo Technologies Inc., which was acquired by 3M Company in 2008. In 2006, Aearo entered into an exclusive contract with the U.S. military to supply earplugs to active combat personnel, which resulted in an estimated 750,000 earplug sets being supplied to the military annually until 2015, when 3M Company discontinued the product. 3M’s defective combat earplugs were standard-issue for the U.S. military for years, distributed to thousands of servicemembers who relied on the earplugs to protect their hearing both in training and in combat. Unfortunately, the earplugs didn’t work properly, and the servicemembers who wore them in combat or in training are now suffering lasting consequences as a result of the failed earplugs.
3M Earplug Hearing Loss Lawsuits
As a result of defects that allowed its Combat Arms Earplugs to loosen imperceptibly in soldiers’ ears, thereby failing to provide adequate hearing protection, 3M Company faces a growing number of lawsuits filed by military veterans and servicemembers who used the earplugs during their military service between 2003 and 2015. All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that 3M designed the earplugs in a defective manner and sold them to the military without providing warnings, despite knowing as early as 2000 about the potential for the earplugs to not work properly. According to reports, 3M even conducted tests that revealed the earplugs’ design defects, but instead of notifying the U.S. military, the company manipulated the test results to make it seem like the earplugs worked properly and met military safety standards.
In July 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that the company defrauded the government by knowingly selling defective earplugs to the military for more than a decade, without disclosing defects that decreased the actual hearing protection provided by the earplugs. In the months since the settlement agreement between 3M and the Justice Department, dozens of veterans and military servicemembers across the country who have experienced everything from hearing loss to tinnitus and balance issues due to inner ear damage have filed lawsuits against 3M, and thousands more are expected to sue in the coming months and years.
Thousands of 3M Earplug Lawsuits Expected to be Filed
In one recent case, an Army combat veteran in Maryland who served two tours in Iraq filed a lawsuit alleging that, as a result of the earplugs defect, he suffered from tinnitus and other damages leading to costly medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus is the disability most commonly experienced by military veterans, and there are more than 2.7 million currently receiving benefits for the debilitating condition. More than 800,000 former military servicemembers now suffer from hearing damage, many due to defective combat earplugs, and product liability lawyers across the country are currently investigating claims on behalf of servicemembers who believe their hearing problems were caused by 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs. Contact a knowledgeable product liability lawyer today if you believe you were harmed by a defective consumer product, like 3M’s military earplugs.