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Veterans Sue 3M Over Defective Earplugs and Hearing Loss – Part I

April 26 2019 | Blog
  • Read our first installment on the defective combat earplugs story to discover whether you or your family member may be affected and eligible to file a lawsuit against the defective product’s manufacturer.


    Thousands of lawsuits alleging hearing loss and injuries in veterans are popping up all over the U.S. in relation to defective combat earplugs manufactured by 3M, the Minnesota-based defense contractor. The lawsuits follow a settlement 3M reached with the U.S. government last year in which the manufacturer agreed to pay over $9 million to resolve the allegations brought against it by the Department of Justice. 3M was accused of violating the False Claims Acts, a piece of federal legislation which prohibits companies and individuals from knowingly making false or fraudulent claims in order to secure government contracts or funding.

    The allegations of the limited effectiveness of 3M’s combat earplugs – which were used by the U.S. Army in combat zones and on training grounds for more than a decade – originally surfaced in 2016 in a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower. Now, former army members claim in lawsuits that 3M’s defective products are the reason why they suffer severe hearing damage including hearing loss and tinnitus.

    If you or a family member might be affected by this issue, this two-part article will provide you with more information related to the defective earplugs controversy, legal options available to you, and compensation you may be able to obtain for your injuries.


    The Product


    The specific product at the heart of this controversy is 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2  (CAEv2). The earplugs were originally designed and manufactured by Aearo Technologies Inc. which was later acquired by 3M. CAEv2 were dual-ended and marketed as selective attenuation earplugs, with each of the product’s ends designed to offer a different level of protection. One end was supposed to work as normal earplugs, protecting from noises across the sound spectrum. The other end purportedly offered selective protection, canceling out high-impulse sounds typical of combat noises such as explosions or gunshots, while still allowing the soldiers to hear conversations and commands. The earplugs came to be a part of standard military equipment – both in combat zones and for training – and were widely used by soldiers between 2003 and 2015 as Aearo and later 3M became the exclusive provider of earplugs to the U.S. army.


    The Allegations


    Lawsuits brought by veterans against 3M focus on the fact that both the Minnesota-based manufacturer and its predecessor Aearo knowingly provided the U.S. Army with a defective product while fully aware of its flawed design and potentially harmful effects.

    The allegations state that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion in the ear canal and, as a result, would gradually loosen inside the ear, failing to provide adequate protection. Among adverse health effects directly related to the product’s faulty design and subsequent exposure to unsafe noise levels, plaintiffs name hearing loss and tinnitus (constant, uncomfortable buzzing or ringing in the ears).

    In our next installment, we will explore how the defective earplugs controversy was brought to light and what the ramifications may be to individual U.S. army veterans and their families.

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