Our veterans who have fought for our freedom around the world now apparently have another health challenge. It appears that “Combat Arms” earplugs manufactured and sold by Minnesota-based 3-M under a government contract have been alleged to be defective.
According to the Military Times, “Hundreds of veterans are filing lawsuits claiming the earplugs didn’t maintain a tight seal and allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through without the wearer knowing.”
In mid-2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve claims that it knowingly sold its earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the hearing protection, according to the Justice Department.
The allegations by the U.S. government were brought against 3M through the enforcement of the False Claims Act..
Although that case has been resolved, all claims within the settlement were allegations only, and there was no determination of liability, the Justice Department said.
Still, this hasn’t stopped vets from lining up to seek punitive damages from 3M after developing hearing issues as a result of 3M’s “gross negligence,” according to the lawsuit.
“Since late 2003, 3M touted its Combat Arms earplugs as capable of allowing users to hear commands from friendly soldiers and approaching enemy combatants, unimpaired, in the same way as if they had nothing in their ears,” the lawsuit reads.
The documents allege that 3M employees knew about the earplug defects as early as 2000.
Although testing conducted by 3M found that the earplugs were defective, it was alleged the company falsified certification stating that the testing complied with military standards, according to the lawsuit.
In 2006, the U.S. government entered into a contract with 3M, in which the company supplied an estimated annual quantity of 15,000 earplug packages, with 50 pairs per package, at a guaranteed price of at least $9 million in sales for the year, the lawsuit states.
The earplugs were sold to the military until 2015, when 3M discontinued the product. However, the defective pairs were not recalled and thus are still likely used by soldiers and sold by other vendors, according to the lawsuit.
The failure allegedly resulted in hearing loss, tinnitus, and loss of balance in those who used 3M’s trademarked, dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs during their military service between 2003 and 2015
The lawsuits allege that the 3M Company designed the earplugs in a defective manner and failed to warn users of the defect or to provide proper instructions for their use, according to a copy of one lawsuit provided to Military Times.
“Due to the widespread damage caused to veterans by 3M’s actions, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg of lawsuits that will be filed in order to hold 3M accountable,” said an attorney representing vets who have made the claims.
Anyone who meets the following criteria could be eligible to receive compensation from 3M:
- Served in any branch of the United States military, including the Reserves and National Guard, between 2003 and 2018
- Used 3M Combat Arms Earplugs during training or deployment
- Have been diagnosed with partial or total hearing loss, tinnitus or another auditory issue that stems from military service
If you are one of the veterans affected, Theodoros & Rooth may be able to help. We believe that you deserve compensation for your hearing loss and other symptoms that may be caused by these defective earplugs.
There is no fee for your initial consultation. If we believe you have a case, Theodoros & Rooth will fight to hold 3-M responsible for their alleged negligence. Call or email us today. Our contact information is included here on our website.
Sources include: The Military Times