What's the Problem with 3M Earplugs?
Although both ends of 3M's Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were intended to be used for noise protection, the earplugs were defectively designed too short, resulting in improper placement, which gave the wearer little to no protection from high-volume sounds. Additionally, the earplugs could loosen in the ear without the user realizing it, providing little to no protection from high-volume sounds. Users believed Combat Arms Earplugs would protect their ears from damage, but 3M knew the flawed design did not adequately protect users.
Despite 3M knowing that the earplugs were defective as early as 2000, the company continued to provide the earplugs to the military through 2015, needlessly exposing personnel to extremely loud noises, resulting in injury.
Side Effects of Noise Exposure
Loud noises are bad for the ear because large sound waves are unsafe for the small, delicate bones of the ear canal to handle. The louder the sound, the bigger the sound wave is and the larger the vibrations in the eardrum.
Humans hear sound through a series of vibrations that make their way through the eardrum to the bones of the inner ear to the fine hairs (cilia) of the cochlea, where the vibration is changed to electrical signals that pass from the auditory nerve to the brain.
Loud noises vibrate the fluid in the cochlea more than quieter sounds, which can irreparably damage the cilia. Hearing loss occurs when the cilia are damaged and can’t send the electrical signals as well as they once could.
Related Article: 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update
3M Combat Arms Earplug Litigation
In 2016, a whistleblower lawsuit was filed against the 3M Company under the False Claims Act. Under the Act, private parties can sue on behalf of the U.S. Government when an individual or entity submits false claims to procure money from the government. If the claim is successful, these whistleblowers also can share in the 3M compensation payout obtained on behalf of the government.
In this case, the whistleblower alleged that 3M failed to warn the Defense Logistics Agency that there were problems with the Combat Arms Earplugs. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 3M and Aearo Technologies were aware that the earplugs were not long enough for proper insertion but did not disclose the defect. 3M ultimately agreed to pay out $9.1 million to resolve the lawsuit. However, as part of the settlement, 3M admitted no liability in the case. The whistleblower who reported the problem with the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs was entitled to $1,911,000.
Where Were 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Used?
3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were standard issue in all U.S. military branches from 2002 to 2015 in the following foreign conflicts:
- The Iraq War
- War in Afghanistan
- War in North-West Pakistan (part of War on Terror)
- War in Somalia
- Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
- American-led intervention in Libya
- American-led intervention in Iraq
- American-led intervention in Syria
- Yemeni Civil War
- American Intervention in Libya
Proving Your Claim Against 3M
To qualify for a 3M Earplug Lawsuit, you’ll need to have:
- Your DD214, or your official service record
- Your Veterans Administration (VA) record
- Medical records establishing that you have been officially diagnosed with an injury due to your use of 3M Combat Arms earplugs (i.e. hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of balance)
Product Liability Theories
If you meet the above qualifications, our lawyers may be able to file a product liability lawsuit on your behalf. In most cases, a product liability lawsuit can be based on 1 or more of 3 actionable defects:
Based on prior litigation, it is likely that we would pursue damages based on a design defect because the 3M earplugs could not be fully inserted to prevent sound from damaging the ears.
See all related product liability lawsuits our attorneys have covered.