Amid revelations that the combat earplugs that were standard issue for all U.S. military servicemembers from 2003 to 2015 were defectively designed and prone to failure, more than 200,000 military veterans are now pursuing hearing loss lawsuits against 3M Company, alleging that they suffered irreversible hearing problems from the earplugs, which the company supplied to the military via an exclusive contract with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. In 2018, 3M agreed to a $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve claims that the company defrauded the government by selling combat earplugs for use by the military without disclosing the fact that the earplugs were prone to loosening or falling out of users’ ears. If you or a loved one has suffered permanent hearing damage allegedly caused by defective 3M combat arms earplugs, contact us today to determine whether you may be eligible for compensation through a product liability lawsuit.
3M Company admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement with the Department of Justice, yet a steady stream of individual lawsuits have been filed against 3M in the years since, each involving similar allegations that 3M knew about the defective design of the earplugs and withheld the risk of inadequate hearing protection from the U.S. government and military servicemembers. The plaintiffs in the growing litigation over 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) are current and former servicemembers who indicate that they suffered tinnitus, hearing loss and other permanent hearing problems that could have been avoided had they been provided with safe and effective combat earplugs. Given common questions of fact and law raised in the defective earplug lawsuits filed against 3M in federal courts across the country, the claims were last year centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
According to a litigation statistics report issued this week by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), there are at least 208,859 product liability claims currently pending in the 3M earplug MDL, with new cases being added each month. The combat arms earplugs in question, known as “selective attenuation earplugs,” feature a dual-ended design intended to allow users to block all sounds when inserted in the ear one way. When inserted the other way, the earplugs were meant to block high-level noise from weapons or aircraft in combat or training, while allowing users to hear low-level noises like spoken commands and conversations. According to plaintiffs in the 3M earplug litigation, however, the company’s military earplugs were prone to loosening during use and were too small to properly seal the ear canal. The earplugs thus failed to protect users from loud blasts from explosions and gunfire, thereby putting them at risk for permanent hearing damage.
3M’s CAEv2 earplugs were discontinued in 2015 and the problems with the earplugs first surfaced in 2016, when Moldex-Metric, Inc. filed a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M for making false statements to the federal government about the safety and effectiveness of the combat arms earplugs the company sold to the U.S. military for more than a decade. Even now, several years later, it remains unclear how many veterans may have been injured by the defective earplugs, as many likely sought medical treatment on their own for hearing problems they had no idea were caused by their earplugs. However, as more former servicemembers learn about the defective combat earplugs and the associated hearing damage, the 3M earplug litigation is expected to continue to grow.
Rather than admitting the problems with its combat arms earplugs and recalling the earplugs or issuing updated warnings or instructions to ensure their proper use, 3M continued selling the defective earplugs to the U.S. military for years, thereby unnecessarily putting thousands of military servicemembers at risk for irreversible hearing problems, including partial or total hearing loss and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in one or both ears indicative of hearing loss. If you or a member of your family served in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015, it is likely you were outfitted with 3M’s defective combat arms earplugs. Contact Consumer Safety Watch today to learn more about the ongoing 3M earplug litigation and to find out whether you have grounds to pursue a product liability lawsuit against 3M. A defective earplug lawsuit can help cover the cost of medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity and other damages, so don’t wait to call.