3M Earplug Injury Lawsuits
Hearing loss is a serious concern for members of the military. In order to minimize the risk of hearing damage, the military provides all servicemembers with noise-canceling earplugs. In 2016, a whistleblower revealed that the earplugs 3M sold to the military between 2003 and 2015 were “dangerously defective.” To make matters worse, the company admittedly knew that the earplugs didn’t work. Rather than fix the product or tell the government, it falsified tests and told the military they worked just fine.
Military members who served between 2003 and 2015 may have suffered hearing loss or hearing injuries because of defective 3M earplugs. Hundreds have already filed product liability lawsuits against the company. The lawsuits accuse 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies of knowingly selling a defective device to the military.
3M Knew Its Earplugs Didn’t Work
3M landed a contract to manufacture and provide earplugs to the military. The contract was awarded to 3M, in part, because the company claimed that independent tests proved that its earplugs were effective. However, in truth, 3M didn’t use a neutral third-party company to test its product. 3M performed safety tests itself.
Those tests revealed that the earplugs offered no benefit to the user. The earplugs did not block out noise or sound. In response to a False Claims Act lawsuit, the company admitted as much and said that the earplugs did not meet military safety specifications. 3M ultimately agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle that case. However, none of that money will go to military veterans who were injured because of the defective 3M earplugs.
3M Earplug Injuries
Military servicemembers are often exposed to dangerous levels of sound. 3M earplugs were supposed to be double sided and offer military members two different levels of protection. One side should have blocked out all noise, including IED blasts, explosions, and gunfire. The other side should have muted dangerous levels of sound but allowed the member to hear commands and listen to their surroundings. 3M earplugs were defective and didn’t perform as intended. Evidence also suggested that the earplug could dislodge in the wearer’s ear if flanges on one side weren’t folded back.
As a result, members of the military using 3M earplugs suffered severe injuries, including:
- Permanent hearing loss
- Temporary hearing loss, and
Studies have shown that hearing loss and tinnitus can actually increase the risk of PTSD and certain mental health issues, including depression. The potential damage caused by defective 3M earplugs is quite extensive.
Does the Military Still Use 3M Earplugs?
The military no longer actively distributes new 3M earplugs to military servicemen and servicewomen. However, it’s believed that 3M earplugs are still being used by some members of the military. The company never recalled the product, despite admitting that they don’t work.
Who Can File a 3M Injury Lawsuit?
You should be able to trust your standard issue military gear. You shouldn’t have to worry that it’s not safe or effective. Speak with an experienced 3M injury lawyer if you:
- Received standard issue 3M Combat Arms Earplugs while serving in the United States Military between 2003 and 2015, AND
- Have been diagnosed with hearing loss, tinnitus, or another hearing-related injury.
Experts believe that servicemembers who were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq during this time were the most likely to receive the defective earplugs.
Hundreds of Veterans Sue 3M Over Defective Combat Earplugs
More than 600 veterans have filed lawsuits against 3M. The lawsuits claim that the company knowingly supplied a defective and dangerous product to the government and failed to warn them about known risks. Several of those veterans have filed a petition to have their lawsuits consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Minnesota. An MDL allows one federal judge to oversee several similar cases. This process helps to encourage settlements and foster consistent results.
If the MDL is granted, the first 3M earplug lawsuits to go to trial will help to set the tone for others. 3M has already admitted that it lied to the government. The company may be eager to settle the veterans’ lawsuits to avoid costly losses in court.