3M Earplug Lawsuits
Members of the military are regularly exposed to loud, explosive noises. Earplugs are issued to protect servicemembers from suffering permanent hearing loss while serving their country. The military sets high standards for the safety products it supplies to its members. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs sold to the military between 2003 and 2015 were defective. During this time, many members of the military suffered significant hearing loss.
Hundreds of military veterans are filing lawsuits against 3M. The product liability lawsuits claim the company sold defective combat equipment, despite knowing that the earplugs might not work. Veterans are demanding that 3M be held accountable for the injuries they’ve suffered.
Were you a member of the United States military between 2003 and 2015? Did you suffer significant hearing loss or tinnitus while using standard issue 3M earplugs? If so, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact Rosen Injury Lawyers to learn about your legal rights and options. Our attorneys are prepared to help you hold 3M accountable for your injuries. Call our law firm today to schedule your free, no-obligation case assessment.
- 1 Lawsuits Accuse 3M of Supplying the Military With Defective Earplugs
- 2 3M Knew About Dangers Associated With Its Earplugs
- 3 3M Pays $9.1 Million to Settle Government False Claims Act Lawsuit
- 4 How Were 3M Earplugs Supposed to Work?
- 5 How Were 3M Earplugs Defective?
- 6 Complications and Injuries Associated with 3M Military Earplugs
- 7 Have 3M Earplugs Been Recalled?
- 8 Do I Have a 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
Lawsuits Accuse 3M of Supplying the Military With Defective Earplugs
Military veterans suffering from permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and other adverse health issues are filing lawsuits against 3M, a military contractor. Among other things, the lawsuits allege:
- 3M Combat Arms Earplugs are defective and unreasonably unsafe
- 3M knew that the earplugs were defective but continued to sell them to the military, anyway
- 3M failed to provide instructions about how to wear the earplugs properly, and
- 3M failed to warn the military about injuries that could occur when using the earplugs.
3M knew that its earplugs contained a design defect. The company also knew that there was a way to prevent that defect from interfering with the safe use of the product. However, 3M did not disclose that information to the military or servicemembers.
Plaintiffs Ask to Consolidate 3M Earplug Lawsuits in Federal Court
Hundreds of 3M earplug lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts across the country. In January 2019, several plaintiffs filed a motion to have nine of these cases tried together in multidistrict litigation (MDL). In an MDL, similar cases from across the country can be transferred to a single federal court. Plaintiffs benefit from shared pre-trial discovery while reserving the right to have their individual cases heard before a judge and jury.
If the petition to create the MDL is approved, the cases will be consolidated before a federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Future 3M earplug injury lawsuits could join the MDL.
3M Knew About Dangers Associated With Its Earplugs
In the early 2000s, 3M won a bid to supply the military with standard issue safety earplugs for all service members. The company secured the contract by claiming that independent tests confirmed that its earplugs met or exceeded all of the military’s safety specifications. However, 3M never outsourced its safety test, as required by law. Instead, the company performed the safety noise reduction rating (NRR) tests itself.
In 2000, in-house safety tests revealed that 3M earplugs were not effective. Specifically, the test showed a noise reduction rating of 0. This meant that the earplugs did not reduce noise levels at all. In other words, the 3M earplugs provided no benefit to the wearer. Despite these test results, 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies told the military that the earplugs were effective.
3M Pays $9.1 Million to Settle Government False Claims Act Lawsuit
Insiders knew that 3M was putting members of the military in harm’s way. In 2016, a whistleblower filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act on behalf of the United States government. The whistleblower accused 3M of knowingly and fraudulently supplying the military with “dangerously defective” earplugs.
The lawsuit claimed that 3M’s decision to provide the military with an unsafe device “caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus” and put millions more at risk of suffering the same injuries.
In its response to the lawsuit, 3M acknowledged that internal safety tests revealed that the earplugs contained a defect and failed to meet military safety specifications.
Rather than fight the False Claims Act lawsuit in court, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle the dispute. However, this settlement was only paid for the benefit for the government, not the members of the military who were injured because of the defective 3M earplugs. Now veterans are taking matters into their own hands and filing personal injury lawsuits against the military contractor.
How Were 3M Earplugs Supposed to Work?
There are times when military servicemembers need to block out all of the noise around them. There are other times when it’s critical to block out certain sounds while allowing others to get through. Members of the military need to be able to have both options at their disposal at all times. The solution: dual-sided earplugs.
Standard issue 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were dual sided. One side of the earplug was designed to dampen all noise, while the other was designed to dampen some noise.
Yellow Side: The yellow side was intended to provide servicemembers with situational awareness. It would block out loud impulse noises but allow low-level noises to get through. If the veteran inserted the yellow side into their ear, they’d be able to hear commands or footsteps, but be protected from the noise of explosions, IEDs, or aircraft.
Green Side: The green side was intended to act as a more traditional noise-canceling earplug. If the veteran inserted the green side into their ear, they’d block out and/or dampen all sounds.
Servicemembers could choose which side of the earplug to use based on their specific needs at any given point in time.
How Were 3M Earplugs Defective?
Earplugs can only be effective if there is a tight seal between the plug and the wearer’s ear canal. This is the only way to provide hearing protection. Studies revealed that the 3M’s earplugs would loosen over time, creating space for dangerous noise and sound to get through. Unfortunately, the loosening was so imperceptible that wearers had no idea the earplugs weren’t working.
The problem with 3M earplugs is that the design was too short. The part of the device inserted into the ear canal wasn’t long enough to maintain a tight seal for a significant period of time.
3M Never Revealed How to Prevent Earplugs From Unsealing
Evidence suggests that 3M knew that the design for its Combat Arms Earplugs was defective. The company also allegedly knew how to prevent the design defect from interfering with safe use of the product. Studies revealed that flanges on one side of the earplug had to be folded back during use. Taking this simple step would prevent the earplug from dislodging in the wearer’s ear.
However, 3M never provided this information to the military or its servicemembers. Instead, the company continued to sell the defective product to the military, putting veterans at risk. As a result, members of the military developed permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and other health issues.
Complications and Injuries Associated with 3M Military Earplugs
Active duty members of the military receive standard issue safety gear, including earplugs. 3M earplugs can loosen imperceptibly in the ear, putting wearers at risk of:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Tinnitus, and
- Auditory processing disorder.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a serious problem for a rising number of military veterans. Studies have shown that veterans who struggle with hearing loss are also susceptible to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Have 3M Earplugs Been Recalled?
No. 3M earplugs have not been recalled. The company did discontinue the product in 2015. However, Combat Arms Earplugs are still in circulation. It’s possible that the earplugs are still being used by members of the military.
Do I Have a 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
You may have the right to file a 3M earplug lawsuit if you:
- Were an active duty member of the United States military between 2003 and 2015
- Received standard issue 3M Combat Arms Earplugs earplugs, and
- Suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus.
Only an experienced 3M earplug injury attorney will be able to tell you if you have a legitimate case. Contact Rosen Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation case assessment. Our attorneys will review your case, explain your rights, and answer any questions you have. Call our law firm today to learn more.