What are 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
3M Combat Arms Earplugs are known as “selective attenuation earplugs” which, instead of blocking out all sound the way traditional earplugs are designed to, block out varying levels of sound, depending on the user's need. One side would allow the user to be able to hear conversations and commands from superior officers; the other side would block out all speech and other sounds, giving the wearer added protection.
How Were 3M Earplugs Defective?
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that 3M Combat Arms earplugs were designed with stems that were too short to fit properly into the ear canal, which means that, over time, the earplugs would loosen without the user realizing it. Because the seal did not fit correctly, soldiers were exposed to unsafe levels of loud noises but were unaware that this was happening.
Did 3M Know About the Problem with its Military Earplugs?
The DOJ investigation also found that 3M was aware of the flaw with its Combat Arms Earplugs as early as 2000 – 3 years before the company began selling the product to the government. Also in 2000, 3M conducted tests which found that the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of the closed end of the earplugs was 10.9 decibels of sound, not the 22 NRR that the earplugs were advertised as providing. Additionally, the testing revealed that the open end of the earplugs actually amplified sound.
In response to these problems, 3M simply altered the test results and lied on the packaging. The company continued to sell the earplugs to the U.S. government until 2015, without warning about the defects.
Related Article: 3M Hearing Protection Lawsuit
Who Discovered the Flaw in 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
A company called Aearo Technologies originally designed the dual-ended combat arms earplugs version 2 (caev2). From 2003 to 2012, Aearo was the exclusive supplier of selective attenuation earplugs to the U.S. military. 3M acquired Aearo in 2008 and took over the contract.
For years, 3M sold the Combat Arms Earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a division of the Department of Defense (DoD) that handles the U.S. military’s supply chain. DLA purchased millions of earplugs for combat personnel serving in all branches of the military.
Moldex-Metric is another firm that makes earplugs and is a competitor of 3M. In its attempt to design an earplug that it could sell to the government, Moldex found a problem with the design of the Combat Arms Earplugs. Upon this discovery, the company filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act (FCA), effectively blowing the whistle on Aearo/3M’s defrauding of the government.
It was this qui tam action, and the resulting lawsuit, that forced 3M to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations – with the understanding that by doing so, it was not an admission of guilt by 3M.
Related Article: 3M Earplug Lawsuit Payout
Where Were the Defective Earplugs Used?
If you served in any of the following operations, you may have used defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (caev2) without realizing it:
- Enduring Freedom
- Freedom’s Sentinel
- Iraqi Freedom
- Eagle Assist
- Nobel Eagle
- Ocean Shield
- Support in Syria
- Support in Yemen
- Support in Libya
- Support in Somalia
How Much is My Case Worth?
As all cases are unique, there is no way to determine exactly how much a case is worth without speaking to you first. In most product liability cases, the more severe the injury the more your compensation is likely to be. The lawyers at Schmidt & Clark can help you claim compensation for any of the following damages that apply to your case:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional trauma
Due to the fact that 3M knowingly committed an act of fraud, which means they knowingly deceived both U.S. military veterans and the Federal Government, you may be additionally entitled to punitive damages.
See all related product liability lawsuits our attorneys have covered.