At least 11 U.S. veterans have filed lawsuits against 3M so far this year. They allege that permanent hearing loss resulted from the defendants’ defective earplugs, which were supplied to the U.S. military. 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were issued to multiple branches of the armed services between 2003 and 2015. Those particular earplugs were discontinued in 2015. Experts familiar with the case suspect that hundreds, perhaps thousands of 3M military ear plug lawsuits will be filed in the coming months and years as the alleged connection between defective earplugs and hearing loss becomes more widely known.
The trouble with 3M earplugs
Military servicemembers are routinely exposed to high levels of noise, stemming from causes like gunshots, mortar explosions, and high concussion equipment. The military issued earplugs to servicemembers in an attempt to protect them from noise-induced hearing loss. However, the selective attenuation earplugs manufactured by Aearo Technologies—a company acquired by 3M—were too short. The dual-ended earplugs could gradually loosen in the ear or slip out of the ear canal entirely, and these problems were not necessarily detected by servicemembers at the time, leaving them exposed to piercing noises.
Some veterans have already announced their intentions to file lawsuits and join the tide of litigation expected against 3M. Kevin Cronin, a veteran from Washington state, told reporters that he expected to file his lawsuit very soon. Cronin was an active duty servicemember in the Army from 2012 to 2015. In 2014, he was deployed to Afghanistan. “I went into the military with great hearing and left active duty with drastic hearing loss and tinnitus,” said Cronin. He must now wear hearing aids.
3M has already agreed to pay millions in a settlement
The news that the 3M earplugs were defective first came to light when a whistleblower lawsuit was filed in 2016. That lawsuit was filed by Moldex-Metric Inc., a manufacturer that produced competing earplugs. The claim alleged that the contractor knowingly sold the defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency, and did not provide warnings that the earplugs were too short to provide adequate hearing protection.
“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler. In a settlement, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations. The settlement agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing, nor does it prohibit affected veterans from filing product liability lawsuits against 3M to recover compensatory damages for their losses.
Are you a veteran with hearing loss?
Veterans have already sacrificed so much for this country. They shouldn’t have had to sacrifice their hearing too. Injury attorney Bart Bernard is currently investigating 3M hearing loss claims on behalf of veterans and their families. If you were issued 3M earplugs between 2003 and 2015, and you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus, call The Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers to request your case review. Our legal team proudly serves veterans throughout Louisiana, including Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
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Additional resources on 3M lawsuits:
- Military Times, Hundreds of vets are suing over these defective combat earplugs, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/02/14/hundreds-of-vets-are-suing-over-these-defective-combat-earplugs/
- Military Times, Company to pay $9 million after allegedly selling defective combat earplugs to US military, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/07/26/company-to-pay-9-million-after-allegedly-selling-defective-combat-earplugs-to-us-military/