3M Combat Arms Earplug Signed Cases
Thousands of military veterans have sued 3M Company because of hearing damage caused by defective combat earplugs sold by the company to the Department of Defense. If your law firm is interested in helping veterans injured due to defective products, ZeroRisk Cases® can help.
The earplugs failed to keep a tight seal, allowing dangerously loud sounds to be heard by the wearer. The earplugs are too short for correct insertion, resulting in loosening without the person wearing them realizing it.
Defective earplugs injure service members
It’s alleged that Minnesota-based 3M Company defectively designed the earplugs and failed to warn users of the defect or to provide proper instructions for their use. Federal lawsuits filed across the country are consolidated in Pensacola, Florida.
Plaintiffs claim the defect caused hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and loss of balance in those who used the dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs during their military service between 2003 and 2015. The 3M Company is accused of selling the second version of their earplugs to the military without disclosing defects that decreased the actual effectiveness of the hearing protection the device supposedly offered.
Military personnel are constantly exposed to high levels of noise. Hearing loss and tinnitus remain the second most prevalent service-connected disabilities, according to a recent medical journal article. Much of the noise exceeds the maximum protection achievable with double hearing protection.
Unlike civilians, military personnel have little option but to stay in noisy environments in order to complete specific tasks and missions. The use of hearing protection devices and follow-up audiological tests have become the military’s main tools to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Potentially dangerous levels of sound not only in happen in combat. They can occur on firing ranges, while near military vehicles, aircraft, and machinery.
3M has previously agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold its defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the hearing protection, according to the Justice Department. The lawsuit by the U.S. government was brought under the False Claims Act. There was no determination of liability under the settlement.
3M accused of trying to cover up problems with earplugs
Plaintiffs allege 3M employees were aware of the defects as early as 2000. 3M’s own tests found the earplugs were defective, according to the Department of Justice, and the company falsified certification stating that the testing complied with military standards.
In 2006 the U.S. government entered into a contract with 3M to supply an estimated annual quantity of 15,000 earplug packages at a guaranteed price of at least $9 million in sales for the year. The earplugs were sold to the military until 2015, after the product was discontinued, but defective pairs were not recalled and may still be in use.
The Combat Arms earplugs are two-sided plugs. One side is designed to be used as a normal earplug while the other side is supposed to allow service members to hear a conversation, while at the same time blocking out loud noises.
The side that was supposed to allow hearing voices actually makes noises louder. Older foam earplugs used by the military in the past could cut noise levels by 30 to 40 decibels, the other side of the earplugs only cut noise by about 11 decibels. Despite knowing this, 3M sold them to the military. The earplugs were made by Indianapolis-based Aearo Technologies LLC, which is owned by the 3M Company.
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