3M Lawsuit Attorneys
3M Combat Arms Earplugs (Version 2) (the “CAEv2”) were used exclusively by all United States military branches for a number of years. Military branches included the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. From 2003 to 2015, these 3M earplugs were standard issue equipment supposed to protect our service members from hearing loss associated with repeated exposure to very loud noises from things like aircraft, artillery, guns, and explosions. Bombings, gunfire, explosions, etc., are all linked to permanent hearing loss. Due to a defect in the product, some military members suffered complications with their hearing. That has led to a Department of Justice whistleblower lawsuit and subsequent personal injury 3M earplug lawsuits alleging that corporate giant 3M’s defective earplugs have permanently damaged the hearing of hundreds of thousands of service members. 3M’s own internal e-mails and testimony show how the company was aware its earplugs were defective and failed to inform the military. We believe that 3M should be held accountable for this and we want to help protect you or your loved one’s rights.
Do you or a loved one have tinnitus or partial or total hearing loss connected to your military service? If so, you need to speak with an experienced 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuit attorney at Gerling Law as soon as possible.
What Are 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
Aearo Technologies initially manufactured Combat Arms Earplugs. 3M acquired Aearo in 2008. These dual-ended earplugs were marketed as innovative, serving two critical purposes. Military members could insert the cone-shaped end into their ears to block out loud and possibly damaging sounds like explosions or gunfire. However, they could still hear some muted tones like a conversation. If they inserted the ear plug’s other end in their ear canal, it would entirely block out all noises.
Did You Wear These?
3M’s CAEv2 earplugs were designed to block all noise if the green end was inserted into the ear or block damaging noise but with the yellow end inserted into the ear, the wearer could still hear low-level sound. However, they were too short to fit properly into an ear canal and could loosen in a way that was not perceptible to the wearer, falling out completely.
3M’s Combat Arms Earplug
Unfortunately, the earplugs did not work as expected. A defect in the design process allowed the plugs to slip out of the ear, leaving military members exposed to damaging sounds. The earbuds were too short to be inserted correctly in the ear. That would cause them to loosen some, letting in the very soundwaves they were designed to block out. The resulting injuries include tinnitus, which is a buzzing or ringing in the ear, and partial or total hearing loss.
Thanks to a whistleblower lawsuit, the government learned that Aearo knew years ago that the earplugs had a significant flaw, but they failed to disclose this to the military and continued to sell them anyway. The Department of Justice settled the whistleblower lawsuit with 3M for $9.1 million. The whistleblower suit was only to recover money for submitting false claims for government funds. Injured military members still have the right to bring a claim against 3M for their hearing damage.
Do I Qualify to Participate in a 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit?
To participate in a 3M lawsuit, a veteran needs to show that they suffered a hearing injury after using the military-issued earplugs, such as partial or total hearing loss, in one or both ears. Many military veterans also report tinnitus, which is like a constant buzzing or ringing in one or both of your ears. Do you feel as though your ears are full when you leave loud events or places? If you stand three feet away from someone, can you hear them? Having difficulty understanding what people are saying is a sign of tinnitus. There are specific qualifications you must meet to participate in the litigation for 3M defective earplugs. You must have:
- Served in the United States military between 2003 and 2015;
- Use the military-issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs during your service;
- Been exposed to loud sounds/noises during military service; and
- Received a diagnosis for tinnitus or unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.
In addition, participants in the military earplug lawsuit against 3M must not have any of the following conditions:
- Waardenburg syndrome,
- Meniere’s disease,
- Stickler syndrome,
- Alport syndrome,
- Pendred syndrome, or
- Usher syndrome.
If you meet the qualifications above, you could be entitled to financial recovery for the hearing damage you suffered due to the defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs.
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How Can You Join the 3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit?
Qualified military service members can speak with an experienced product liability attorney to learn more about joining the 3M Combat Earplug lawsuit. At Gerling Law, our defective product attorneys are here to help injured service members recover compensation for their injuries.
Damages in other military earplug lawsuits have included current and future medical expenses, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, and mental anguish. When you meet with us, we can explain your damages and what potential compensation you might recover from litigation.
What Went Wrong with 3M Earplugs?
The federal government issued a government request for proposal to Aearo Technologies in 2003 for military earplugs. Aearo falsely certified that their Combat Arms Earplugs met the government standard for noise reduction rating (NPR) and would protect military members from losing their hearing if they were exposed to damaging sounds, like a bomb. Aearo's testing was negligent. They went ahead and certified the earplugs as having been tested at the government-required NPR rate of 22. However, the reality is the earplugs were only around 10.9 NPR, which is a massive difference.
During this testing phase, they also learned of additional problems with the earbuds being too short. When 3M bought Aearo Technologies, they kept on some former Aearo employees, including some developers who already knew about the Combat Arms Earplug problems. The Department of Justice discovered during its whistleblower suit that employees might have known about the defects as early as 2000 during the pre-market testing phase.
These 3M defective earplugs were used in numerous military conflicts during the years they were on the market. These conflicts include:
- War in Afghanistan;
- Iraq War;
- War in Somalia;
- American-led Libya intervention;
- American-led Syria intervention;
- American-led Iraq intervention;
- Operation Ocean Shield (Indian Ocean); and
- Yemeni Civil War.
Relying on false information, the United States Marine Corps was convinced the earplugs would work as described. They ordered over 20,000 pairs in 2003, which resulted in a temporary depletion of the national stock.
If knowingly selling the defective earplugs wasn't enough, 3M worked to prevent competitors from selling products that would protect active military members. In 2012, 3M initiated patent infringement litigation against Moldex-Metric's BattlePlugs. These BattlePlugs are what the military now purchases for service members.
Is the Military Earplug Lawsuit Going on Right Now?
There is currently pending litigation in both state and federal courts regarding 3M's defective earplugs. The multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) is a collection of product liability actions regarding whether 3M was negligent in its design, testing, and labeling of the earplugs. Military veterans have alleged in their lawsuits that 3M not only supplied military members with defective earplugs but also failed to warn of the defect.
On April 20, 2020, the judge in the MDL class action ordered that 3M records uncovered by victims' lawyers could be made available to the public. Those records showed that these earplugs cost 85 cents to make but were sold to the military for $7.63. That is a huge profit for a manufacturer to make at the expense of the American taxpayers.
What's the Next Step I Should Take?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus affects at least one in ten American adults and is the top disability among military veterans. If you were involved in active military conflict activities during the years listed above and used the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, you need to get your hearing testing. Hearing loss can happen even when you suffered no apparent injuries during your years of service.
Your tinnitus and hearing loss may not have been caused by a single exposure, like a bomb blast. You could also have developing hearing problems after long-term exposure, such as being stationed in an engine room or on an aircraft carrier's decks. That is why it's crucial to check on your hearing loss if you haven't already sought medical testing. Aearo and 3M knew they were letting military members wear defective earplugs; it's time to hold them accountable.
Before meeting with an attorney, it is helpful to start gathering all your medical and military records. We need to collect all evidence to increase your potential recovery amount.
Finding a Lawyer to Help with Your 3M Combat Arms Earplug Claim
At Gerling Law, our 3M Combat Arms Earplug attorneys can speak to any service member who believes they suffered injuries due to these defective earplugs. We have decades of experience in a wide variety of product liability cases and understand the legal complexities and nuances of this type of litigation. You fought for your country. Now let us fight for your rights. Contact Gerling Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us put our skills and experience to work for you and help you get the compensation you deserve.
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