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On July 26, 2018, the manufacturer of Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs, 3M Company, agreed to pay the U.S. military $9.1 million to resolve allegations that 3M Company knowingly supplied the U.S. military with a defective product. In entering the settlement, 3M Company made no admissions of wrongdoing and no determinations of liability were made.(1) (2)
Although the company admitted no wrongdoing, individual U.S. servicemen and women are filing lawsuits against 3M Company, alleging that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the earplugs were too short to provide hearing protection when inserted as directed, and lied about the earplugs’ safety.
Now, many U.S. servicemen and servicewomen may be paying the price.(3)
If you have been diagnosed with significant hearing loss or tinnitus after being deployed in the U.S. military between 2003-2015 and being issued and using 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs, Weitz & Luxenberg may be able to help you. You may be able to receive financial compensation for the hearing damage itself as well as past and future lost wages if the hearing damage has impaired your ability to work.
"[E]veryone at Weitz & Luxenberg [was] very nice to me. They showed me great respect the entire time. They didn’t see me as a number. They saw me as an individual in need of help. I have nothing but positive feelings about the help I received and about the people who gave it."
Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs were intended for use by military personnel.(4) One side, with the olive-colored end of the plug in the ear, was intended to provide a block to all sound.(5)
The other, yellow-colored side was purportedly intended to reduce loud impulse sounds, such as an explosion, but allow a person to hear quieter sounds, such as someone’s voice when giving a command.(6)
In at least one lawsuit, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran says he was issued and used 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs as directed in active military duty and training. As a result of product design defect, as well as failure to warn and negligence by 3M, among several other claims, he alleges that he is now suffering from hearing damage.(7)
According to the lawsuit, the design of the earplug is inherently defective. If a person inserts the earplug according to the instructions that come with it, “the edge of the third flange of the non-inserted end of the earplug presses against the wearers’ ear canal and folds back to its original shape…”(8)
Ultimately, the seal of the earplug inside the ear canal becomes loose, though this may not be detectable by the wearer. When loose, the earplug does not provide adequate protection from noise. This is true no matter which end the person inserts into an ear.(9)
Without a snug fit, military personnel were not protected from potential damage to their hearing.(10)
The False Claims Act comes into play when a federal contractor, such as 3M for the Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs, is doing business with the federal government and is accused of perpetrating fraud. According to the U.S. Department of Justice announcement publicized in July 2018, the $9.1 million settlement resolved “allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency” without any admission of liability by defendants.(11)
In the case of the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs, “the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 [Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2] was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.”(12)
“The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.” (13)
According to the qui tam (whistleblower) portions of the False Claims Act, a private party was permitted to sue on behalf of the federal government against the 3M Company.(14)
If an earplug does not work the way it is supposed to, hearing damage can occur. Hearing loss can be partial to full, and range from mild to profound. Even moderate hearing loss can mean someone cannot hear another person speaking at a normal level.(15)
As well as hearing loss, hearing damage can also include tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition, often related to hearing loss. People with tinnitus may perceive a ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing, or other types of noise in their ears not related to actual external sounds.(16)
As a national firm experienced in representing clients injured by defective devices, Weitz & Luxenberg is prepared to file appropriate lawsuits on behalf of servicemen and servicewomen harmed by 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs. Paul Pennock, chair of one our national litigation practice groups, is serving on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for this litigation.
If you were diagnosed with significant hearing loss or tinnitus after using these earplugs during military deployment between 2003 and 2015, we may be able to help you.
Paul J. Pennock will be happy to review your case.
In 2013, Weitz & Luxenberg achieved a multimillion dollar settlement against a manufacturer of cochlear implant devices. These defective devices required explanation and re-implantation with a new cochlear implant device, subjecting clients to serious risks associated with this surgery, including hearing loss.
Since its founding more than 30 years ago, Weitz & Luxenberg has won more than $12 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients injured by defective drugs and medical devices.