The 3M Military Earplug lawsuit claims the earplugs that 3M sold to the military between 2003 and 2015 were ineffective because they would not hold tight within a user's ears.
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What Do We Know About the 3M Military Earplug Lawsuits
In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that 3M Corp. agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a whistleblower False Claims Act suit accusing 3M of knowingly selling defective earplugs to the U.S. military.
The settlement, filed in South Carolina federal court, was driven by allegations that 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies Inc. sold its Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the Defense Logistics Agency knowing they were too short to be properly inserted into a user's ears.
The defective earplugs are dual-ended and can be used either as traditional earplugs or can be flipped into an "open" position to attenuate explosion sounds while still letting through quieter noises. The plugs would gradually loosen after being inserted in the ears and would fail to properly reduce loud noises.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Aearo Technologies employees, including those who joined 3M after it acquired Aearo in 2008, knew about the design problems as early as 2000 when it completed testing of the earplugs.
Not only did 3M/Aero knowingly sell these defective earplugs to men and women in uniform, it also prevented other companies from selling more effective competing products. 3M launched patent infringement litigation in 2012 aimed at Moldex-Metric's BattlePlugs, which are now being purchased by the military. The lawsuit ended with a ruling in favor of Moldex.
3M’s CAEv2 earplugs were standard equipment for certain branches of the military between 2003 and 2015, and the only available option to military personnel for attenuation earplugs between 2003 and 2012.
In April 2019, an MDL was established for the 3M Combat Arms Earplug cases in federal court in Florida. Our law firm is serving as co-liaison counsel for the MDL. As of March 2020, more than 6,800 lawsuits were pending in the MDL.
Military Hearing Injuries
Approximately 60% of all military personnel report hearing loss after leaving the military. As of 2014, more than 933,000 veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss and 1.3 million were receiving compensation for tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by an acute (single) exposure to an intense impulse of sound (such as an explosion) or by a continuous long-term exposure (such as repeated gunfire or being stationed in engine rooms or aircraft carrier decks).
Attorney Becca Timmons Discusses the 3M Military Earplugs Lawsuits
3M Military Earplugs Lawsuit News
Judge rules against key 3M defense in earplug lawsuit
"The [earplug's] design already existed — it came into existence without any input from the Army," [Judge M. Casey] Rodgers wrote in the ruling. "The Army never issued a request for a design proposal for the new earplug, there was no competitive bidding process during which the Army established design details for a new earplug from interested contractors." Reported in StarTribune
3M Company Agrees to Pay $9.1 Million to Resolve Allegations That it Supplied the United States With Defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs
The Department of Justice announced that 3M Company (3M), headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device. Reported in Justice Department
Company to pay $9 million after allegedly selling defective combat earplugs to US military:
A contracting company agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the U.S. military defective earplugs. The Minnesota-based 3M Company allegedly sold its dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the actual effectiveness of the hearing protection the device offered. Reported in Military Times
Scientific Studies Regarding Veteran Hearing Loss
A field investigation of hearing protection and hearing enhancement in one device: For soldiers whose ears and lives depend upon it
The in-field research described in this paper was conducted to examine operational performance effects of three different hearing enhancement protection systems (HEPS) that are intended to provide both protection and audibility. The experiment utilized operationally-defined measures in full-scale, simulated combat scenarios with Army ROTC Cadet Soldiers as subjects. Reported in Noise & Health
Hearing Loss Widespread Among Post-9/11 Veterans
Among post-9/11 veterans, 414,000 have come home with hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. The most-widespread injury for veterans has been hearing loss and other auditory complications, according to interviews and benefits data. Reported in Center for Public Integrity
Impact of noise on hearing in the military
Military personnel are constantly exposed to high levels of noise and it is not surprising that noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus remain the second most prevalent service-connected disabilities. Unfortunately, unlike civilian personnel, military personnel have little option but to remain in noisy environments in order to complete specific tasks and missions. Reported in Military Medical Research