3M has reached a significant milestone in resolving the legal claims brought forth by veterans who suffered hearing loss due to alleged defects in the company’s military earplugs. With hundreds of thousands of military service members and veterans filing product liability lawsuits against 3M, claiming that the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs failed to provide adequate hearing protection, a comprehensive $6 billion settlement has finally been agreed upon. If you or someone you know has suffered hearing damage that you believe to be related to defective 3M military earplugs, contact Consumer Safety Watch now to explore your options.
Between 2003 and 2015, Aearo Technologies Inc., now a subsidiary of 3M, manufactured and supplied the United States military with specially designed earplugs. These earplugs were intended to safeguard service members’ ears from the loud sounds associated with military training and combat. The earplugs, known as Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), were standard issue for soldiers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones during those years. However, production of the earplugs ceased in 2015 without a recall.
3M’s CAEv2 earplugs were dual-ended, allowing users to wear them in two different ways. When worn one way, they were intended to block out all sound, like traditional earplugs. When worn in reverse, they were supposed to filter out only certain types of loud battlefield noise while allowing the wearer to hear softer, closer sounds. However, allegations arose that these earplugs were too short for some users’ ear canals, leading to ineffective noise isolation and potential hearing damage.
As veterans experienced hearing loss and tinnitus, many suspected that the defects in the CAEv2 earplugs were responsible. Consequently, a whistleblower lawsuit was filed in 2016 by Moldex-Metric, Inc., a California-based competitor, accusing 3M of knowingly selling defective earplugs that did not meet the government’s protection standards. Following this lawsuit, individual service members began filing their own claims against 3M, asserting that the defective earplugs caused their hearing impairments.
After years of litigation and negotiations, 3M has agreed to a settlement amounting to $6 billion to resolve the extensive litigation surrounding its military earplug lawsuits. This settlement is expected to compensate nearly 300,000 veterans who have suffered hearing loss or tinnitus due to the alleged design defects in 3M’s earplugs. The settlement will be funded over a five-year period, with $1 billion of the settlement to be provided in the form of 3M stock.
In order to fund the settlement payouts, 3M proposed the use of $1 billion in stock as part of the agreement. U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers, the federal judge presiding over the 3M earplug lawsuits, approved the proposal on December 31, 2023, determining that the use of stock to partially fund the settlement is fair and appropriate. This decision allows the settlement to proceed, so long as at least 98% of plaintiffs agree to the terms. The stock issuances will be made to a Qualified Settlement Fund established by the court, enabling the distribution of funds to eligible claimants.
While the 3M earplug settlement offers compensation to veterans who suffered permanent hearing damage, some have expressed concerns about the adequacy of the payouts. Plaintiffs were given a six-month window to accept or opt out of the settlement agreement. The average compensation per plaintiff is estimated to be around $24,000, which has been criticized by some for not adequately addressing the permanent hearing loss and tinnitus injuries suffered by veterans. If less than 98% of plaintiffs agree to the settlement, the agreement could fall apart.
The $6 billion earplug settlement reached by 3M represents a significant step towards providing much-needed compensation and resolution for veterans who suffered hearing loss and tinnitus due to alleged design defects in 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs. With the approval of 3M using $1 billion in stock to fund the settlement, the legal proceedings can move forward, subject to the agreement of the majority of plaintiffs. If you were issued 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 while serving in the U.S. military, and you have suffered permanent hearing damage or tinnitus, don’t hesitate to speak to a defective earplug attorney about your legal options. Call Consumer Safety Watch today for help.