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3M Earplug Lawsuits

If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015 in the military and used 3M earplugs, your hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing damage may be the result of a defective product.

Veterans who participated in active military combat in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015 and have suffered hearing loss, tinnitus or another kind of hearing damage are now finding that their injuries may be related to defective combat earplugs manufactured by Minnesota-based products manufacturer 3M. This issue may also affect active-duty or retired soldiers who, during the time period indicated above, were members of the reserve but regularly shot firearms for training.

If you are a veteran who experienced hearing loss, tinnitus or hearing damage of any kind that can be likely attributed to the use of defective 3M earplugs, Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers is ready to hear your story and help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Contact us without delay to discuss the details of your case and legal options available to you.

Do I Qualify For A Lawsuit?

If you are active military or a U.S. military veteran, you may have a valid reason to file a claim against 3M and be entitled to the compensation provided that:

  • You served in the U.S. military in active combat zones or were in the reserve but regularly trained with firearms between 2003 and 2015
  • You used the CAEv2 earplugs in order to protect your hearing from damage during your military service
  • You now suffer from hearing damage such as hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Your hearing damage cannot be explained by another underlying medical condition

According to official statistics, in Kentucky, there are currently 36,885 post-9/11 era veterans while Tennessee data indicates that there may be as many as 68,987 veterans who fought in Iran and Afghanistan over the past two decades. The grand majority of these former servicemen and servicewomen were exposed to a higher risk of developing hearing problems and other hearing injuries due defective combat earplugs. In addition, similar injuries may have been developed by veterans who participated in other military conflicts in the period between 2003 and 2015 such as the war in Somalia, intervention in Libya, intervention in Syria or Yemeni Civil War.

If you are an injured veteran, you may seek financial compensation for your injuries by filing an individual lawsuit against 3M, the CAEv2 earplugs’ manufacturer.

What Could Compensation Cover?

While no amount of financial compensation can erase the loss you have experienced and may continue to live with, it can provide a great deal of financial relief and a sense of justice that the responsible party was held accountable.

Such compensation may seek to cover the following:

  • Medical expenses related to the diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairment
  • Special equipment or services you may require as a result of your hearing impairment
  • Non-economic damages such as loss of enjoyment of life and emotional anguish
  • FREE CASE EVALUATION

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The Controversy at a Glance

According to information leaked by a whistleblower, both 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies Inc. – which was acquired by the Minnesotan company in 2008 – knew that the hearing protection devices they manufactured had limited effectiveness yet didn’t disclose the defect to the U.S. military. This likely contributed to hearing-related injuries of thousands of American soldiers and therefore can potentially make the companies liable for such injuries. Under the defective product liability doctrine, affected veterans may be entitled to pursue financial compensation from 3M for the hearing loss they suffered.

As reported by one Minnesotan newspaper, there were at least 11 lawsuits filed against 3M by the U.S. veterans at the beginning of 2019. However, the number of cases has been growing exponentially ever since. In late February, one media outlet informed that “thousands of veterans sue 3M” and that many more cases were expected to emerge in the weeks to follow.

A Competitor Discovers A Two-Fold Defect

The exact model of earplugs alleged to cause hearing damage is 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2).

This hearing protection device, first manufactured by Aearo Technologies Inc., has been marketed as “selective attenuation” earplugs which means that they were supposedly designed to selectively cancel out the sounds of combat – such as loud explosions etc. – while still allowing soldiers to hear conversations and commands. The potential strategic advantages of such an ingenious solution on a battlefield are obvious and so, in time, 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, had become the only model of earplugs used by the U.S. military for combat purposes and 3M their exclusive provider.

The CAEv2 earplugs, however, had an important defect that rendered them virtually ineffective. The defect would not have been discovered if not for Moldex-Metric, Inc., a long-time competitor of 3M. This California-based manufacturer of hearing and respiratory protection attempted to develop their own version of hearing protection devices in order to challenge 3M’s monopoly as the sole provider of combat earplugs to the military. During the manufacturing process which 3M fiercely opposed and tried to put an end to by the means of lawsuits alleging patent infringement  Moldex-Metric found that the CAEv2 earplugs didn’t at all comply with the national standard for military earplugs.

In addition, Moldex-Metric discovered that the combat earplugs had an even more serious design flaw – the end that was supposed to provide the selective attenuation was too short to fit properly in the ear. Due to that design defect, the earplugs would imperceptibly loosen up to the point where they wouldn’t provide any real protection to the ears whatsoever.

3M Knowingly Exposes American Soldiers To Hearing Loss

Moldex-Metric also discovered that both Aearo (the earplugs’ original manufacturer) and 3M (the company that acquired Aearo in 2008) had known about the defects as well as potential ways to amend them. However, the companies failed both to warn the U.S. military and to provide adequate instructions of use, thus knowingly exposing American soldiers and servicemen to the risk of hearing loss in order to maximize their own profits.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Ends in Settlement

Upon discovering evidence of these dishonest tactics on the part of 3M, Moldex-Metric decided to act as a whistleblower. In 2016, the company filed a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit against 3M under the provisions of the False Claims Act. This important piece of legislation allows private entities to introduce lawsuits on behalf of the U.S. government for committing frauds that may have led to misuse of government funds. After more than 2 years of a fierce legal battle that led to the direct involvement of some parts of the U.S. government, 3M agreed to settle the claims for $9.1 million in July of 2018.

While reaching a settlement in the lawsuit introduced by Moldex-Metric allowed 3M to avoid admitting to any liability, many veterans who may have been affected by the dishonest and irresponsible behavior of the combat earplugs’ manufacturer now feel that they themselves have valid claims against 3M.

Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers Can Help

The serious effects of having spent time in a warzone and active participation in military efforts are often far less visible than extensive physical battle scars or intense psychological trauma. According to one source, hearing loss and other auditory complications such as tinnitus have been the most wide-spread injuries among veterans, affecting an estimated 414,000 individuals nationwide.

Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers find it especially regrettable that these serious risks may have been needlessly aggravated by completely irresponsible and, by all accounts, greedy behavior on the part of the manufacturer of combat earplugs. If you or your family member have suffered hearing loss or damage related to the use of 3M earplugs, contact our legal team today and schedule a free consultation. An experienced member of our firm will carefully analyze your case in order to make sure you can be fully and fairly compensated for your unjust injuries and suffering.

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