Lawsuits filed by nearly 40 military veterans against 3M Company over hearing loss and other injuries allegedly caused by the company’s defective combat earplugs have been moved to federal court. These lawsuits join hundreds of other lawsuits brought by current and former members of the U.S. military, all of which involve similar allegations against 3M and Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired in 2008. More lawsuits are expected to be brought against 3M and Aearo in the future as the ongoing litigation uncovers the full extent of the potential problems posed by the defective earplugs, which were standard issue for the U.S. military. If you used combat earplugs from 3M company during your military service between 2003 and 2015, and you have since suffered hearing loss, tinnitus or another hearing problem, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation. Contact an experienced 3M earplug attorney today to discuss your legal options.
The earplugs at the center of the ongoing litigation are the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), which were standard-issue for members of the U.S. military for more than a decade, from 2003 to 2015. During that time, the earplugs were used by thousands of active duty servicemembers to protect their hearing during combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and during training exercises in the United States. The earplugs were designed to allow users to hear low-level sounds, like commands from friendly solders and approaching enemy combatants in the field, while providing protection against damaging, high-level sounds like explosions and weapons fire. According to the ongoing litigation, 3M and Aearo Technologies, the company that originally manufactured the earplugs, knew at the time they were being supplied to the U.S. military that the earplugs were too short to ensure a proper seal in users’ ears and therefore did not provide the hearing protection they were meant to.
It was in 2006 that the U.S. government entered into a contract with 3M, and under the contract, the company supplied the military with an estimated 15,000 earplug packages (with 50 pairs in each package) per year, at a guaranteed price of at least $9 million in sales. This went on until 2015, when 3M finally discontinued the CAEv2 earplugs. However, the defective earplugs were never recalled by the company, which means they may still be available from other vendors and used by soldiers.
Due to defects in the design of the 3M combat earplugs, which the company allegedly knew about as early as 2000, veterans and U.S. military servicemembers allege that they suffered problems like permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, a debilitating condition characterized by a constant or intermittent ringing or buzzing in one or both ears. 3M has vehemently denied these allegations, claiming that its Combat Arms earplugs were developed by Aearo in cooperation with the U.S. military and in accordance “with the military’s rigorous specifications.” However, evidence uncovered during the course of the litigation suggests that testing conducted by 3M indicated that the earplugs were defective, but rather than disclosing this defect to the U.S. military, the company falsified records to make it seem as though the testing complied with military standards.
In 2018, 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that impeded the earplugs’ hearing protection. Although 3M did not admit fault in that case, the settlement opened the door for individual veterans and military servicemembers to sue 3M and Aearo Technologies for allegedly manufacturing and distributing faulty earplugs that unnecessarily put them at risk for lifelong hearing problems, like hearing loss and tinnitus. Some of the military earplug lawsuits against 3M have already been or are in the process of being centralized before a federal judge in the Central District of Florida, for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
If you served in the U.S. military and used 3M combat earplugs from 2003 to 2015, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against 3M for any hearing problems you may have suffered as a result of a lack of proper hearing protection. Consult a reputable product liability lawyer as soon as possible to find out if you qualify for compensation through a 3M earplug lawsuit.