What's the Problem With 3M Earplugs?
A whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act in May 2016 alleged that 3M Company knowingly sold and distributed defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. Military from 2003 to 2015. The lawsuit further alleged that 3M was aware of this design flaw as early as 2000, yet failed to warn about the problem or issue a recall for the products.
As a military contractor, 3M made millions from the government as payment for the defective earplugs. The earplugs were then issued to personnel from all 4 branches of the military, who were likely to be exposed to gunshots, explosions, and other loud noises on the battlefield.
It was later revealed through an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that 3M military earplugs failed to properly block loud noises. In fact, the earplugs were found to be too short and would not stay firmly in place in the user's ear canal. This design flaw kept the earplugs from protecting the wearer’s ears, which meant that each time they used the products, soldiers were unknowingly subjecting themselves to an increased risk of hearing loss and tinnitus.
In July 2018, the DOJ announced that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. Military to resolve claims that the company knowingly sold the defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the government. However, as part of the settlement, 3M never accepted liability for the defective military earplugs.
What Causes Military Hearing Problems?
Military service members have a greater risk of hearing loss and tinnitus compared to the general population. Hearing damage can occur gradually or be caused by one-time exposure to high-intensity noise, such as gunshots, explosions, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or artillery fire.
Exposure to noises that are too loud, too close, or too persistent can damage microscopic hairs in the inner ear called cilia which are housed inside a shell-like organ called the cochlea. Cilia are unable to repair themselves.
Decibels (dB) measure the noise level of a sound based on how much pressure it puts on the eardrum. Hearing damage occurs at noise levels at or above 85 dB.
2 Army Veterans Awarded $110 Million in 3M Earplug Lawsuit
A federal jury in January 2022 awarded $110 million to a pair of U.S. Army veterans who claimed they suffered hearing damage as a result of using 3M Combat Arms Earplugs. The decision marked the largest sum awarded to date in the 3M earplug lawsuits.
The 2 plaintiffs, Ronald Sloan, and William Wayman, were each awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages by a jury in the Northern District of Florida.
Both Sloan and Wayman used the 3M earplugs during training and their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sloan served in the Army from 1994 to 2015, and Wayman served from 1997 to 2017.
Why Should I File a Lawsuit?
While the military was awarded damages for 3M's negligence in the $9.1 million settlement, individual service members were not included in this 3M lawsuit payout. In order to recover compensation for veterans and current service members who were injured, attorneys are filing individual lawsuits, which have been consolidated into the largest mass tort in American history in the Northern District of Florida before Judge Casey Rodgers.
Compensation in successful cases could cover pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other damages caused by defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs. With money for treatment, surgery, and medications, some ear damage can thankfully even be reversed.
If you or someone you know meets the following criteria, you may be able to file a claim seeking financial compensation to ease the burden of these injuries:
- Served in any branch of the U.S. armed forces between 2003 and 2015.
- Received and wore 3M Combat Arms earplugs during your service.
- Were subsequently diagnosed with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.
Note: these criteria apply even if you receive disability and other service-related benefits.
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Get a Free 3M Earplug Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Attorneys
The Product Liability Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP is an experienced team of plaintiffs' lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in 3M Ear Plug lawsuits.
We handle individual litigation nationwide and accept personal injury legal action in all 50 states.
Free Lawsuit Evaluation: Again, if you suffered hearing damage, ear damage, or other side effects after using 3M earplugs, you should contact our law firm immediately using the contact form below. You may be entitled to financial compensation by filing a Lawsuit and our mass tort law firm can help.