A trial date has been set for the first of many lawsuits filed over defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, which more than 200,000 veterans and current military servicemembers say caused them to suffer hearing loss, tinnitus and other debilitating hearing problems. The trial will be held in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Florida, where federal 3M combat earplug lawsuits have been consolidated for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The 3M earplug MDL, now the largest mass tort in history, will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. If you or someone you love served in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015, and now suffers from hearing loss, tinnitus or another hearing problem, you may have a claim against 3M Company. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights.
The earplugs at the center of the litigation against 3M are the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), which were standard issue for U.S. soldiers in all branches of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015. The dual-ended earplugs were designed to protect soldiers from high-level noises from aircraft and gunfire during combat and training exercises, while still allowing them to hear low-level noises like conversation and commands. However, it has been reported that the earplugs were too short to fit properly in the ear, which diminished the noise-blocking effects of the earplugs and put users at risk for permanent hearing issues like hearing loss and tinnitus, which is the perception of a ringing or buzzing in the ears. The CAEv2 earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies, and when 3M acquired Aearo in 2008 for $1.2 billion, it also became responsible for the potential liabilities of the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs.
Internal emails and court documents indicate that 3M executives were aware of the earplug defect as early as 2000, and not only failed to notify the military of the problem but continued selling the defective earplugs to the government for use by military servicemembers. 3M, however, has consistently defended the safety and effectiveness of its earplugs. “We deny the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 product was defectively designed and caused injuries,” said Tim Post, a spokesman for 3M, in an email. “The company worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the product, and its design reflected the direction and feedback of individuals acting on the military’s behalf. The CAEv2 product is effective and safe to use, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against plaintiffs’ claims.”
Back in 2018, 3M settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. government over claims that the company sold earplugs it knew were defective to the military for more than 15 years as part of an exclusive contract with the Defense Logistics Agency. 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations but did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. Unfortunately, none of that settlement money went to the military servicemembers who were actually harmed by the allegedly defective earplugs. These upcoming lawsuits are individual claims brought by injured veterans and military servicemembers against 3M, seeking fair compensation for current and future medical bills, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and other damages related to the injuries they suffered due to the defective earplugs.
The earplug lawsuit scheduled for trial in March involves three military servicemembers who allegedly suffered hearing damage from 3M’s CAEv2 earplugs. This trial will be followed by two other trials involving individual servicemembers with similar claims. These so-called “bellwether” trials are test cases designed to help the involved parties and the court gauge how juries may react to evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the mounting litigation. Bellwether trials are important because it is the goal of these test cases to move the overall litigation towards resolution. And while the outcomes of the bellwether trials are not binding on future defective earplug cases, plaintiff verdicts in these early cases could potentially persuade 3M to consider combat earplug settlements.
With more than 200,000 lawsuits pending in the combat arms earplug litigation, the actions brought against 3M Company since 2018 now outnumber the total actions filed in the asbestos products litigation, which has been pending since the 1990s. According to the latest report, as many as 220,000 current and former military servicemembers have filed lawsuits against 3M, alleging that the company knowingly sold substandard earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing design defects that prevented the earplugs from providing proper hearing protection for soldiers during combat and training. If you have suffered hearing loss or tinnitus and you were provided 3M earplugs during your military service, you may have grounds to file a claim against 3M Company for your injuries. Consult a knowledgeable defective earplug injury attorney today to find out if you qualify for the 3M earplug MDL.