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3M Earplug Lawsuits

3M, based in Minnesota, provided earplugs to soldiers in the United States military designed for use in combat. The earplugs were designed to block out loud explosions or blasts, but still allow the soldiers to hear orders.

It wasn’t long before it became apparent that 3M failed to tell the United States government that many of the earplugs were faulty. These defects could lead to partial or complete hearing loss to our men in uniform. The attorneys at the Jeffcoat Firm in South Carolina believe that our soldiers and veterans should receive compensation for their suffering due to using the defective 3M earplugs.

In 2018, a whistleblower came forward to warn people about the flaw in the design. Once the Department of Justice investigated the claim, 3M paid $9.1 million to the United States government to resolve the fact that 3M knew about the flaw but supplied them to the military in spite of this.

 

How Do The 3M Earplugs Cause Harm? 

Allegedly, the 3M earplugs have a design flaw in that the earplugs are symmetrical. The earplugs became loose and allowed sound to enter into their ears — ultimately cause damage to their hearing. As a result, some of our military men and women could experience ringing in their ears or hearing loss.

 

What About the Combat Arms Earplugs? 

The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, was sold to the United States military without disclosing the known defect. These earplugs originally were manufactured by Aearo Technologies, which was bought by 3M in 2008. 

In their lawsuit, the United States government alleged that 3M and Aearo Technologies knew the Combat Arms earplugs were designed too short. Tests showed the plugs could not be inserted correctly in a soldier’s ear and didn’t perform well for some people. 

The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, were specifically designed for military use and because of the defect exposing our soldiers to dangerous levels of sound. The use of these earplugs was prevalent while our soldiers were fighting in:

  • The Iraq War
  • Afghanistan War
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • War in Somalia
  • Operation Ocean Shield conducted in the Indian Ocean
  • American Led Invasion of Libya, Iraq, and Syria
  • Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
  • American Intervention in Libya (2015 to Present)

 

How Do I Get Involved in the 3M Earplug Lawsuit?

To become involved in the 3M earplug lawsuit, you must:

  • Have a diagnosis from your doctor of tinnitus at or around the time you were discharged from the military
  • Suffer hearing loss that resulted in an impairment rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The appropriate time of service is 2003 to 2015.

 

Why Were the Earplugs Dual-Ended? 

The 3M dual-ended earplugs were designed with one yellow end and one dark green end. The dark green end is supposed to block out all sound, and the yellow end was supposed to block out loud noises while still allowing the commands through.

 

What’s the defect in the 3M Combat Earplugs? 

The problem is that instead of blocking sound, they used a design that let the earplugs loosen in the soldier’s ears. Additionally, the fins on the unworn side of the earplugs interfere with forming a tight seal.

3M admitted in a False Claims Act lawsuit that their testing of the earplugs in 2000 showed that the earplugs had a noise reduction rating of zero. Because of this defect, soldiers suffered tinnitus and hearing loss.

 

Why Did The Military Use the 3M Earplugs?

The earplugs were provided by a contract with the purpose of protecting the hearing of the men and women in the military. Now, many veterans have come forward arguing that 3M misrepresented how effective the devices were, didn’t disclose the defects, and put military personnel at risk for severe hearing loss.

 

What Problems Have Been Reported by Soldiers? 

The soldiers have reported that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs made by 3M were allegedly too short to be useful in fitting in their ears. Over time, the device would become loose and not protect against hearing damage. Long term damages included tinnitus, permanent hearing loss, and balance problems.

 

Are the Lawsuits Against 3M Earplugs a Class Action?

The 3M lawsuits are not a class-action lawsuit; they are a mass action. While both kinds of lawsuits can resolve the claims of many people, in a class action, one person can file a single lawsuit that represents everyone else’s interests.

In a mass action, everyone files their lawsuit even though all the cases are consolidated in front of one judge.

 

Have the 3M Lawsuits Been Litigated? 

There have been cases filed by veterans in many states. They have all been consolidated before a federal judge in Florida. The judge, the Honorable Casey Rodgers, is an Army veteran.

Just because the cases are being heard in Florida, doesn’t mean you have to travel to Florida to file your claim.

If you or a loved one served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and has suffered from tinnitus or hearing loss, a Columbia personal injury attorney at the Jeffcoat Firm may be able to help you recover monetary damages for your injuries.

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