Ask anyone who served in the United States Armed Forces and they will tell you about the necessity of using earplugs during their military service.  Recently, a whistleblower revealed that the 3M Company, a large multi-national company worth over $100 billion dollars, knowingly sold defective earplugs to the United States military for years.  In fact, studies have shown that the earplugs in question, known as Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, failed to perform correctly and in some tests provided no hearing protection. 

What Are Combat Arms Earplugs?

Combat Arms Earplugs were sold to the U.S. government for use by military servicemen and servicewomen from 2003 to 2015.  These dual-ended earplugs had two colors to provide soldiers with two different options of noise protection. The olive-colored side was intended to block as much sound as possible while the yellow-colored side was designed to allow the wearer to hear low-level sounds such as a fellow soldier talking. 

Complications

The design of the Combat Arms Earplugs prevents a snug fit in the ear canal of the wearer.  Once inserted into the ear canal, the seal can loosen, providing inadequate protection. If the earplug does not work as it is supposed to, it could cause permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. Tinnitus involves the sensation of hearing sound, for instance, ringing or buzzing, when no external sound is present. It is often a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss.

Lawsuits

A False Claims Act lawsuit filed against 3M alleged that the company knowingly sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States military between 2003 and 2015.  In 2015, 3M Company discontinued the product, however, the defective earplugs were not recalled and could still be in use by soldiers. 3M Company did not disclose the defects that hampered the effectiveness of the earplugs causing wearers to develop permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. 

3M has acknowledged the defective earplugs and agreed to pay back the government $9.1 million to resolve the allegations, but that does not account for the thousands of soldiers who used the earplugs and suffered permanent hearing loss as a result. 

Military veterans are now filing lawsuits against 3M to recover damages arising from their personal hearing injuries. There are over 600 lawsuits currently being consolidated for multidistrict litigation (MDL) and that number is expected to rise. The assigned Judge, Casey M. Rodgers, has both military experience and a record of MDL success.

How We Can Help 

If you or a loved one served in the military between 2003 and 2015, used the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug, and was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss, you may be entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering. For a free consultation or more information about your legal options, please call the number below. Or, if you prefer to complete our free case evaluation form, our client relations representative will contact you shortly.