What's the Problem?
From 2003 to 2015, 3M had a contract with the U.S. Military to provide earplugs to service members in all branches. 3M exclusively provided its Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, which are noticeable for their yellow and green coloration. Users complained that the earplugs would come loose or fall out during regular use.
Design Defects in 3M Military Earplugs
3M claimed the yellow side of its Combat Arms Earplugs offered a 0-decibel rating, as required by the military. With this rating, 3M stated that earplug users could hear spoken commands while blocking out intermittent, loud sounds like gunshots and explosions.
The yellow end of the earplugs was designed to facilitate an “open” position. While open, the earplugs were supposed to reduce the volume of intermittent noises while still allowing the user to hear auditory commands and approaching vehicles. Unfortunately, the earplugs failed in this capacity.
In actuality, the yellow end of the earplugs had a rating of -2, indicating sound amplification, like a person would experience while using a hearing aid. 3M also refused to comply with testing requirements.
Additionally, lawsuits allege defects on the green side of the 3M earplugs. plaintiffs claim that 3M falsified the earplugs’ decibel-reduction rating to indicate they would provide protection in times of constant high-decibel-level sounds, such as during combat.
A design defect prevented this feature from working as intended.
The green side of the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs was designed to be in the “closed” position. When the user placed this end into their ear, all noise was blocked. The green side was supposed to be protection for users who were exposed to constant loud noises.
Related Article: 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update
Veterans and Hearing Loss
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there was a significant increase in hearing loss and tinnitus among military service members between 2003 and 2015. Inversely, these hearing problems began to decline in 2016, the first year the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were no longer used.
Related Article: How Much Money Are Veterans Getting for the 3M Lawsuit?
3M Pays $9.1 Million to Settle Allegations It Sold Defective Earplugs to the Military
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 3M was aware that its Combat Arms Earplugs were defective years before selling them to the military. A whistleblower lawsuit uncovered the earplugs' defects and 3M's internal knowledge. As a result, 3M agreed to pay a $9.1 million settlement to the DOJ to resolve the allegations. However, no liability was determined and 3M did not admit to any wrongdoing.
Related Article: How to Qualify for a 3M Lawsuit?
3M Earplug Damages
If you suffered long-term hearing loss or tinnitus after using Combat Arms Earplugs, 3M should be held accountable for your injuries. The settlement paid to the Department of Justice does not include civil damages. As such, you may be eligible to file an individual claim today.
In your 3M earplug lawsuit, you can seek damages for:
- Medical costs and treatments
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Lessened enjoyment of life
3M Earplug Litigation Status
Months after declaring settlement talks unresolvable between 3M and tens of thousands of plaintiffs alleging that the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs caused their hearing damage, the judge who is presiding over the litigation has ordered both parties to resume settlement talks in good faith.
Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued the order on May 1, 2023, while a federal circuit considers oral arguments relating to bellwether trials that returned plaintiff verdicts and $8 million in damages to 4 Army veterans. Judge Rodgers has appointed 2 retired judges to work alongside a mediator.
There are more than 255,000 lawsuits currently pending against 3M and Aearo Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M that originally manufactured the earplugs before 3M bought the company out in 2008. 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were the only earplugs available to military service members between 2003 and 2015. Plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) allege that 3M knowingly supplied defective earplugs to the military. The 3M MDL is the largest mass tort in U.S. history.
See all related product liability lawsuits our attorneys have covered.