Defective Earplug Lawsuit
A defective earplug lawsuit says the 3M company knowingly sold the U.S. Government defective earplugs used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015. Many thousands of soldiers who deployed to those areas are thought to have suffered tinnitus and hearing loss as a result of those defective earplugs.
A whistleblower lawsuit filed in May 2016 called the case “protracted fraud perpetrated on the military by 3M, whose dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs – which were standard issue in certain branches of the military during foreign conflicts between 2003 and 2015 – have likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus in addition to exposing millions to the risk caused by 3M’s defective earplugs.”
Combat Arms Earplugs
Starting in 2004, all soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were issued Combat Arms earplugs. They were an unusual earplug design because they featured two symmetrical sides, one side colored yellow and the other olive green. They were designed to be worn with the olive end in to block sound like traditional earplugs. By contrast, when worn with the yellow end inside the ear canal, the earplugs were supposed to block, or at least significantly reduce, loud impulse sounds of battlefield explosions, while still allowing the wearer to hear quieter noises such as commands spoken by fellow soldiers and approaching enemy combatants.
The government’s lawsuit claimed the earplugs had dangerous design defects that could cause them to loosen in the wearer’s ear, imperceptibly to both the wearer and even to a trained audiologist observer. The loosening permitted damaging sounds to enter the ear canal by traveling around the outside of the earplug while the user and/or audiologist would incorrectly believe that the earplug was working as intended.
The government’s petition said: “Because the stem of the earplug is too short, it is difficult to insert the plug deeply into some wearer’s ear canals and obtain a proper fit. Specifically, when the earplug is inserted into the ear according to standard fitting instructions, the basal edge of the third flange of the non-inserted end of the earplug is prone to press against some wearers’ ear canals and fold back to its original shape, thereby losing the seal in the ear canals. The defect has the same effect when either end is inserted because the earplugs are symmetrical. In either scenario, the effect is that the earplug may not maintain a tight seal in some wearers’ ear canals such that dangerous sounds can bypass the plug altogether thereby posing serious risk to the wearer’s hearing unbeknownst to him or her.”
Further, the government charged that these dangerous design defects were known to Aero in 2000, and later to 3M.
3M & Aero Technologies
3M acquired Aero in 2008, and thus is associated with any liability associated with its past conduct. At the acquisition of Aero, 3M also hired the employees at Aero who developed and tested the defective earplugs. Further, the 3M/Aero scientist who oversaw and documented the testing of the Combat Arms earplugs, and the 3M/Aero lab technician who conducted the testing, are still employed by 3M today.
Defective Earplug Lawsuit Settlement
On July 25, 2018, the 3M company agreed to pay the U.S. government $9.1 million to settle the lawsuit over the Combat Arms earplugs.
Free Legal Consultation
Our law firm is investigating defective earplug lawsuits for soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan between the years of 2003 to 2015. If you believe that you or someone you love suffered tinnitus and/or hearing loss as a result of the defective earplugs, contact our law firm today for a free legal consultation. Call 888-520-5202 or email us. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we never charge out of pocket expenses for our clients. We don’t get paid expenses or any percentage for a case unless we win a case in court or achieve a settlement for our clients.