In Defective Products, In the Media, News, Product Liability

Servicemembers assume their standard-issue equipment is safe to use and meets the Armed Forces’ exacting requirements. Unfortunately, 3M may have violated service members’ trust when it sold combat earplugs to the Armed Forces. While the company paid a $9.1 million settlement to the government, thousands of veterans and servicemembers are still struggling with hearing loss and severe tinnitus because they used defective 3M earplugs.

When you find out that a company may have profited by selling defective safety products to the military, you have every right to be upset. At Crosley Law, we want to help you get the compensation you deserve. Keep reading to learn more.

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3M Sold the Military Millions of Combat Arms Earplugs

Servicemembers used 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) from 2003 to 2015. The earplugs were dual-sided: one side blocked all noise while the other side, which the company marketed for combat situations, was supposed to protect servicemembers’ hearing from damage while still letting them hear some sounds and conversation.

Aearo Technologies originally designed the Combat Arms Earplugs and eventually became the military’s exclusive supplier of earplugs in 2003. In 2008, 3M purchased Aearo for $1.2 billion and continued manufacturing the earplugs. As part of the acquisition, 3M assumed Aearo’s liability.

According to court filings, the military may have issued millions of 3M combat earplugs to servicemembers between 2003 and 2015.

Veterans and the Department of Justice Believe Design Defects in 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Caused Serious Injuries

In 2016, a whistleblower filed a lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. government. This suit alleged that 3M combat earplugs contained serious design defects. In the suit, the whistleblower said there were two primary defects with the earplugs:

  • The earplugs’ stems were too short and prevented a proper fit
  • One of the flanges on the earplug tended to fold back, making it impossible to achieve a proper seal

These defects may have caused the 3M combat earplugs to come slightly loose in servicemembers’ ears, exposing the servicemembers to harmful levels of noise.

After an investigation, the government asserted that Aearo discovered the defect in 2000 but did not disclose it to the military. Aearo also failed to educate servicemembers about ways to improve the earplugs’ fit, which might have helped protect servicemembers’ hearing.

RELATED CLIENT STORY: Crosley Law Gets $4.9 Million Settlement for a Veteran With a TBI

According to the VA, tinnitus is the most common disability among our veterans, and more than 2 million veterans receive VA benefits for service-related hearing loss and tinnitus. While the aging process can sometimes cause hearing loss and tinnitus on its own, studies have shown that veterans are 30% more likely to receive a tinnitus diagnosis than a civilian.

Tinnitus symptoms include:

  • Ringing, buzzing, or other high-pitched “phantom noise” in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss

In addition to the billions of dollars the U.S. government spends on tinnitus and hearing loss treatment for veterans, victims have their own individual losses, some of which are more difficult to quantify. Some tinnitus victims report ringing in their ears so severe that it makes it difficult to concentrate, perform simple tasks, or even sleep. Tinnitus can impact their relationships, make it difficult to work, and lead to severe depression and anxiety.

3M Settled Its Dispute With the Government for $9.1 Million

In 2018, 3M paid $9.1 million to settle the government’s lawsuit. Notably, 3M did not admit liability as part of the settlement, and the company has continued to defend its earplug design. The government celebrated the settlement as an opportunity “to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.”

However, it’s important to note that this $9.1 million goes directly to the government, not to individual victims. The whistleblower also received a portion of the settlement.

Veterans Are Now Filing Personal Injury Claims Against 3M

To get the compensation they deserve, veterans are filing their own personal injury lawsuits against 3M. The first Texas 3M combat earplugs claim was filed in January 2019 in federal court. Due to our state’s large population of active servicemembers and veterans, Crosley Law expects that hundreds of claims will follow.

If you used 3M Combat Arms earplugs during your military service and later experienced hearing loss or tinnitus, you may be entitled to compensation for damages that include:

  • Medical treatment related to your hearing loss
  • Medical devices like hearing aids
  • Compensation for your lost income and wage-earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

However, before you file a lawsuit related to your 3M combat earplugs, you’ll want to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. 3M will defend itself aggressively against these cases and use every tool at their disposal to minimize victims’ claims and damages.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Do I Know if an Attorney Is Right for My Case?

To fight back against their tactics, you’ll need a sophisticated injury lawyer at your side. At Crosley Law, we’ve built a reputation for our attention to detail, our use of nationally-recognized experts, and our dedication to our clients. We’re not afraid of taking high-profile cases to court and demanding justice for our clients.

Crosley Law: Fighting for Our Veterans and Their Loved Ones in Texas

If you or someone you love is struggling with hearing loss or tinnitus after using 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, you need to act quickly. Depending on your circumstances, you may face a tight filing deadline. To protect your legal rights, you should immediately contact the experienced injury attorneys at Crosley Law.

Initial consultations are always free and confidential. To schedule your free case assessment, call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete this simple online form.

References

Complaint, United States of America ex rel. Moldex-Metric, Inc. (D.S.C. 2016). Retrieved from https://www.docketbird.com/court-documents/United-States-of-America-et-al-v-3m-Company/COMPLAINT-against-3M-Company-Filing-fee-400-receipt-number-0420-6549289-filed-by-Moldex-Metric-Inc/scd-3:2016-cv-01533-00001

3M Company agrees to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it supplied the United States with defective dual-ended combat arms earplugs (2018, July 26). Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/3m-company-agrees-pay-91-million-resolve-allegations-it-supplied-united-states-defective-dual

Groenewold, M., Tak, S., & Masterson, E. (2011, July 22). Severe hearing impairment among military veterans. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6028a4.htm

Klayman, B. (2007, November 15). 3M to buy Aearo Technologies for $1.2 billion. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-3m-aearo/3m-to-buy-aearo-tech-for-1-2-billion-idUSWNAS257920071115

Office of Research & Development (n.d.). Hearing loss. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.research.va.gov/topics/hearing.cfm

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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