Defective Military Combat Earplugs

Military servicemen and women who have used dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs manufactured by 3M Company may have suffered noise-induced deafness, hearing loss, tinnitus and other problems due to a design defect that allows the earplugs to gradually, and subtly, loosen until they fail to properly provide the desired noise cancellation for certain users. 3M has already been ordered to pay $9.1 million in a False Claims Act lawsuit for failing to disclose this design defect to the military, but that won’t bring back the hearing of those who have already suffered full or partial hearing loss from the allegedly defective earplugs. The Combat Arms Earplugs manufactured by 3M were designed for military use and were used by thousands of servicemen and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015. If you were active in any branch of the military (including Reserves and National Guard) between 2003 and 2015, and suffered hearing loss possibly caused by defective combat earplugs, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the earplug manufacturer. Contact an experienced product liability lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

3M Military Defective Earplugs Lawsuit

3M Combat Earplugs Lawsuit Information

In July 2018, Minnesota-based 3M Company agreed to a settlement of $9.1 million to resolve allegations that the company knowingly supplied defective dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States military without warnings that defects may render the earplugs’ hearing protection less effective. The combat earplug allegations against 3M were brought in a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government if they believe defendants submitted false claims for government funds and to share in any recovery. As a result of this combat earplugs settlement agreement, for instance, the whistleblower will receive $1,911,000. According to Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig, Jr., from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, “DCIS protects the integrity of Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the wellbeing of our troops.”

Why Should I Bring About Combat Earplug Litigation?

Military servicemembers who have suffered hearing loss and other problems from defective combat earplugs may file lawsuits alleging that 3M:

• Designed and manufactured defective combat earplugs
• Knew for years that its earplugs contained design defects that could pose a risk of deafness or hearing loss for users
• Failed to disclose this design defect to the U.S. military
• Knowingly supplied defective combat earplugs to the military despite the design defects
• Put users at risk for hearing loss without their knowledge

“Compensation may be available for any service member who served in the U.S. military that was diagnosed with partial or total hearing loss, or who suffered from tinnitus caused during service in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 potentially due to faulty ear plugs.”

What are Combat Earplugs?

Combat earplugs are specially designed earplugs used by the military to protect members of the armed forces from high-level noises like weapons fire and explosions, and constant noise such as that from aircraft and armored vehicles, that could damage their hearing. According to the 3M website, “Combat Arms Earplugs (CAE) meet the demanding hearing protection needs of the armed forces. In the Open/Weapons Fire mode, CAE allows greater situational awareness than a common foam earplug yet helps attenuate dangerous peak levels with a filter element that reacts quickly to provide increased protection. In the Closed/Constant Protection mode, CAE protects against high-level steady noises like those in tracked vehicles and air transport.” Despite these claims, it has been found that 3M’s combat earplugs may contain a design defect that could put users at risk for hearing loss, tinnitus and other serious, debilitating problems. The earplugs at issue here are 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) and, according to the whistleblower lawsuit, Aearo Technologies, Inc., acquired by 3M in 2008, was aware of the issue with the combat earplugs as early as 2000.

How a Combat Earplug Lawsuit Could Help

Filing a combat earplug lawsuit could help members of the armed forces recover compensation for:

• Medical bills
• Temporary or permanent disability
• Loss of the ability to work
• Lost wages
• Loss of future earning capacity
• Pain and suffering
• Loss of enjoyment of life
• Loss of consortium
• Punitive damages

Combat Earplugs and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most common problems affecting members of the military, and tinnitus, a debilitating condition characterized by the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, is just as prevalent among military servicemembers. In the combat earplugs lawsuit, 3M Company and its predecessor, Aearo, were accused of violating the False Claims Act by “selling […] defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency,” while knowing that “the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.” The United States also alleged that 3M knowingly withheld this design defect from the military, thereby allowing users to be exposed to hearing loss – the very thing the earplugs are designed to prevent – from the defective earplugs, without their knowledge. Although the combat earplugs case has been resolved, and 3M Company agreed to pay millions of dollars to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold combat earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing problems with their effectiveness, the company has not admitted liability.

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