More than 220,000 military members have been patiently waiting for 3M to be held accountable for service members’ hearing losses suffered because of the company’s defective earplugs. That wait now draws to a close. A trial date has been set for March 2021, with Judge Casey Rodgers, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, hearing the lawsuit in Pensacola, Florida.
Service members, both veterans and current, are suing 3M for the hearing loss and tinnitus injuries that resulted from using government-issued Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, which the company made and sold to the military.
The Problem With the Combat Arms Ear Plugs (version 2)
3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms Ear Plugs (version 2) were designed to benefit service members with two forms of ear protection. One end of the earplug was intended to block essentially all noise. The opposite end was to provide relief from explosions and gunfire, while still enabling users to hear and communicate with one another.
However, a design flaw that prevented users from properly inserting the plug caused hundreds of thousands of military members to suffer tinnitus and/or severe hearing loss. According to claims, a whistleblower revealed that 3M knew about the defect as far back as 2000, but the company failed to disclose the flaw.
In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 to the U.S. government, as reported by MilitaryTimes. This settlement, however, did not benefit the service members who had been injured by the earplugs. Rather, the money went to the government for the fraud that was perpetrated on it from 3M selling its flawed earplugs to the military.
The government is involved in the current litigation only in that it is equipping plaintiffs with records they can use in their claims. The company failed in its earlier attempt to immunize itself from liability using the Government Contractor Defense, as the judge dismissed this motion, according to radio station WUWF 88.1.
Mass Tort Lawsuit, Not Class Action
This legal battle will unfold as a mass tort lawsuit, not a class-action lawsuit. This means that each plaintiff will file a distinct claim with the claimant’s unique damages. If a case does not settle, it will go to trial. In contrast, a class-action lawsuit gathers class members whose claims share common facts and damages. All members are represented by one or a handful of plaintiffs, rather than being weighed as individual cases. Any settlement or jury verdict resulting from the legal action is shared amongst all the class members.