Hundreds of army veterans all over the United States have filed defective combat ear plug lawsuits against 3M Company after whistleblower allegations that stated a defense contractor sold the military defective Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) from 2003 to 2015.
Because the military earplugs failed to maintain a tight seal, dangerously loud sounds were able to slip through without the wearer’s knowledge.
The dual-ended 3M CAEv2 earplugs, which have now been discontinued, were reportedly standard issue for members of the military service from 2003 to 2015. The 3M ear plug lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas- Waco Division.
According to a copy of one lawsuit that the Military Times received, the lawsuits allege that 3M Company, based in Minnesota, made earplugs with a defective design and failed to warn users of the defect or to provide proper instructions for their use.
It is alleged that the failure resulted in the loss of hearing, loss of balance and tinnitus in those who used the earplugs during their military service.
Over 100 lawsuits have been filed by multiple law firms. In a statement, one lawyer said that due to the widespread damage that veterans suffered as a result of the actions of 3M, the 100 cases so far are just the tip of the iceberg of lawsuits that will be filed so that 3M can be held accountable.
Department of Justice Helps Resolve 3M Earplug Lawsuit Against the Company
In a controversial whistleblower lawsuit that was filed on the behalf of the US government, a leading qui tam lawyer made allegations that 3M Company and Aearo Technologies, Inc. (which was the company’s predecessor), had knowledge of the defect in the earplug’s design since 2000, when the earplugs that were intended for use in combat failed to show any benefits in noise reduction.
Yet, the 3M whistleblower lawsuit alleged that 3M continued to sell the combat arms earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. This is the agency that supplies equipment to the US army, air force, as well as navy personnel.
3M Company, in its response to the whistleblower complaint, admitted that Aearo had conducted a test on the earplugs in 2000 and that the result of the test was a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 0, which means that the combat earplugs had no benefits in noise reduction.
Later, the US government intervened with slightly different allegations in the whistleblower lawsuit.
The United States alleged that 3M and Aearo Technologies were fully aware that the Combat Arms Earplugs version 2, or CAEv2, was too short to be properly inserted into users’ ears. It also added that 3M failed to disclose this information to the US government and delivered the earplugs knowing full well that they were defective products.
In the settlement agreement for the whistleblower combat arms earplugs lawsuit, 3M agreed to make a $9.1 million payment to the United States government.
Allegations Made in the Lawsuits Against 3M
The US Government’s allegations against 3M were brought through the enforcement of the False Claims Act.
According to the Justice Department, the company previously agreed to make a payment of $9.1 million in an attempt to resolve the serious allegations that it purposely sold the defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing any information about the defects that reduced the hearing protection.
The Justice Department said that while that case has come to a resolution, all claims within the settlement were allegations only, and that liability had not been determined at that point.
According to the copy of the lawsuit, that has not prevented veterans from seeking punitive damages from 3M after the “gross negligence” of the company caused them to develop hearing issues.
The lawsuit reads that since late 2003, the Combat Arms earplugs were touted as having the capability to allow users to hear commands from friendly soldiers and approach enemy combatants, without any impairment, in the same way as if there was nothing in their ears.
It is alleged in the documents that the employees of 3M had knowledge of the earplug defects as early as 2000.
According to the lawsuit, although 3M conducted testing and found defects in the earplugs, they falsified certification and stated that the testing they conducted complied with military standards.
A lawyer involved in the lawsuit said that it was rather shameful that 3M would intentionally provide equipment with defects to service members of the U.S. Army, knowing full well that those service members would rely on that defective equipment while engaged in combat.
He added that their fraud caused America’s warriors’ life-long injuries and that the company’s actions cannot and should not be tolerated.
The US government entered into a contract with 3M in 2006. The company supplied the military an estimated quantity of 15,000 packages of earplugs per annum, with 50 pairs per package.
The supply earned the company a guaranteed price of a minimum of $9 million in sales for the year. 3M sold the earplugs to the military until 2015, when the product was discontinued.
However, the lawsuit says that the company did not recall the defective pairs and thus, it is likely that they are still used by soldiers as well as being sold by other vendors.
The defective earplugs may have resulted in significant loss of hearing in many military veterans, including many combat veterans who were deployed two tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, reserve members who were in the US, but fired weapons on a regular basis for training, as well as personnel of the Air Force and the Navy.
Current and former military service members who served at any time between 2003 and 2015 may be entitled to receive compensation from 3M for their loss of hearing or developing tinnitus.
According to a 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office, hearing impairments, including conditions such as constant ringing associated with tinnitus, can be debilitating as well as permanent and has been the No. 1 disability connected to military service that veterans have reported since 2005.
The complaint states that tinnitus and loss of hearing are top health conditions that are diagnosed and treated at medical centers for the veterans, costing the department billions of dollars in benefit claims.
Army Veteran from Maryland Sues 3M
There are a large number of law firms across the United States beginning to file lawsuits against 3M Company over earplugs supplied to the military that the US Justice Department alleged were defective.
Joshua M. Keiner, an army combat veteran, filed the first case against 3M in the US District Court in Maryland. He served two tours in Iraq and the earplugs were issued to him during those tours.
The lawsuits on behalf of service members came after 3M offered a $9.1 million settlement for a federal lawsuit. As mentioned earlier, the settlement was an attempt made to resolve allegations that the company knowingly supplied defective earplugs to the US military.
According to the Justice Department, 3M did not admit liability in the settlement, even though officials had alleged that the Combat Arms earplugs, or CAEv2, were too short to be properly inserted into users’ ears and the company did not disclose the defect.
The suit filed by the Justice Department and Mr. Keiner’s complaint alleged that the defect caused the earplugs to come loose in the ear of the wearer and this, in turn, allowed damaging noise through.
In his suit, Mr. Keiner said that he suffered from tinnitus in addition to other damages that resulted in medical care costs, loss of wages and pain and suffering.
With similar lawsuits being filed across the United States, some lawyers suspect that they will become part of a multidistrict litigation.
This type of litigation is a legal procedure for complex cases in federal court in which common cases are consolidated into one district for pretrial proceedings as well as discovery. One lawyer interviewed added that thousands of veterans have contacted the law firm and that the issue is expected to continue to grow.
The firm plans to file hundreds of more lawsuits in the weeks and months to come to make sure that each veteran that has suffered damage due to the defective ear plugs receives compensation.
Retired Marine Files Lawsuit Against 3M for Earplug Hearing Loss
A former Marine captain, Matt Morrison from New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against 3M, claiming that the company’s defective ear plugs caused hearing loss.
He said that he lost much of his hearing because of standard-issue earplugs that he wore during three combat deployments. He has filed a lawsuit against the company at the Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia.
Capt. Morrison claims that 3M’s defective combat earplugs directly caused him to lose his hearing completely in his right ear.
He said that the gear soldiers are issued is everything from a helmet, eye, and ear protection, to a flak jacket and that he never thought that the gear would be defective or faulty and result in this type of injury.
A former officer in the Navy and Capt. Morrison’s lawyer, said that service people deserved to be provided state-of-the-art equipment for the battlefield, yet 3M provided earplugs that they knew had defects.
He also said that the testing proved that what the company represented to the government and the US military was nothing but a lie.
Capt. Morrison’s tours of duty between 2007 and 2013 included two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. This is when he was exposed to ground-deployed heavy machine guns, explosives, rockets, and small arms fire.
His lawyer said that 3M’s actions are a blatant example of fraudulent profiteering that is at the expense of the US military. A lawyer who specializes in product liability cases and workplace injuries, he also said that the CAEv2 were the most popular deployed earplugs in the military between 2005 and 2015.
According to the lawsuit, the combat earplugs allowed damaging sounds to enter the ear canal, around the outside of the earplug. Their flaps fold back, causing them to loosen up and expose the inner ear to extremely sharp noises that the earplugs are actually supposed to protect it from.
35-year-old Capt. Morrison said that he was devastated to learn that despite taking every precaution, his hearing loss is irreparable.
He said that he did have any signs or symptoms of hearing issues prior to joining the military. He was diagnosed with tinnitus and hearing impairment at his discharge medical physical.
Facts About the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuits
Here is a look at some of the facts about the lawsuits involving 3M Combat Arms earplugs.
Affected Dates: Personnel of the US military that served between 2003 and 2015 experienced loss of hearing and other hearing impairments after they used standard issue 3M combat arms earplugs.
Allegations of the Lawsuit: According to the False Claims Act lawsuit, military contractor 3M Company allegedly knowingly sold 3M combat arms earplugs to the US military between 2003 and 2015.
In other words, the “known” defects did not meet the safety standards of the military as the company claimed and allegedly caused those who wore the earplugs to develop tinnitus/hearing loss.
Defective Dual-Ended Earplugs: 3M’s dual-ended combat earplugs listed in the lawsuit had yellow on one side and green on the other. Each color indicated a certain level of protection of noise for the soldier wearing them.
However, because they were too short, the earplugs’ basic function was faulty. The earplugs could also loosen in the wearer’s ear without them knowing it.
Both of these shortcomings in the product design exposed military personnel to noise levels that were damaging, and this, in turn, contributed to the loss of hearing and/or tinnitus.
The outcome of the Case of the Whistleblower False Claims Act: A lawsuit verdict in July 2018 found 3M guilty of selling a large number of defective earplugs meant for combat use to the US military without disclosing that wearers could develop hearing loss as well as tinnitus due to the faulty earplugs.
As a result, the US military received a settlement of $9.1 million from 3M.
$9.1 Million Settlement: Because the original whistleblower case was filed under the False Claims Act, the US military directly received the settlement funds.
This means that the compensation that was awarded goes straight to the government to cover the expenses on purchasing the allegedly defective combat arms earplugs from 3M. However, the settlement from 3M does directly benefit military personnel who were injured as a result of wearing the defective earplugs.
The settlement involved claims that 3M and Aearo Technologies Inc., its predecessor, became aware of the earplugs’ flaws back in 2000 and failed to disclose this information to the US military prior to finalizing the contract. 3M had also initiated lawsuits on patent infringement against competitors who were selling earplugs that reduced loud sounds effectively in military conditions.
New Lawsuits Involving Combat Arms Earplugs: In an effort to recover compensation on their behalf, individual 3M combat arms earplugs lawsuits are being formed by lawyers specific to personal experience and injuries.
Financial compensation recovered from the lawsuits can be used to cover not just medical bills, but also for your pain and suffering, and a wide range of other damages that result from the alleged defective combat arms earplugs.
FAQs about the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs
Here is a look at some of the most common questions asked about 3M combat arms earplugs (CAEv2).
Q. What was the intended purpose of the 3M combat arms earplugs?
A: 3M Company won an exclusive contract to sell earplugs to be worn in combat to the United States military, and sold millions of earplugs to the armed forces in the US between 2003 and 2015.
The dual-ended earplugs came with black and yellow ends and were intended to offer versatility in providing hearing protection while enabling service members to communicate when they needed to.
One side of the earplugs was intended to block all kinds of sound, including voices. The other side was designed to block any kind of loud impulses or sounds on the battlefield while at the same time allowing spoken commands and words to come through.
Q. What was the defect in the combat arms earplugs?
A. Instead of blocking sound as they were intended to, the design that 3M used in their combat arms earplugs allowed them to loosen in the wearer’s ear. According to the whistleblower, unless folded back, the earplug’s yellow fins prevented a tight seal to form in the ear canal of the wearer.
Testing that the company that invented the earplugs conducted showed that the earplugs had a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of zero – just as 3M admitted in a False Claims Act lawsuit. Service members, as a result of this defect, may have suffered the loss of hearing and tinnitus from combat noise, aircraft noise, or firing weapons in training.
Q. What are the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act?
A: Under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, private parties have the ability to bring legal action on behalf of the government against any party who submits claims that are fraudulent in an attempt to collect government funds.
Q. Can veterans be compensated beyond VA disability from a 3M combat arms earplugs lawsuit?
A: Through the investigation conducted by some law firms, it has been learned that a number of affected members of the military receive hearing aids and partial disability from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), but they may be eligible to be compensated by 3M Company for injuries that they battled including hearing loss, tinnitus, and any other serious health problems as a direct use of these defective earplugs.
Q. Are the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuits a Class Action?
A: No, the 3M combat arms earplugs lawsuits appear as if they will be litigated as a mass tort, not a class action.
In a class action, a group of plaintiffs or single plaintiff seeks to represent all the other people who are in a similar situation – in most cases, people who have not filed their own individual lawsuits.
In a mass tort, every plaintiff files their own individual lawsuit, but the cases, more often than not, are consolidated in front of one judge.
Lawyers of Plaintiffs are Ready to Battle Over Allegedly Defective Combat Earplugs
Veterans from across the United States who suffered hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing impairments after wearing defective 3M combat arms earplugs are suing the company to recover compensation for damages.
In addition, lawyers are also all set to file several thousand lawsuits on behalf of members of the US military over the many defective earplugs that the multinational company sold to the United States government for more than 10 years.
So far, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed against 3M by individual service members, the majority of whom are veterans. They allege that the company’s dual-ended earplugs, used in combat as well as training, had a defective design that resulted in ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, and hearing loss.
3M was the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the military from 2003 to 2012. According to the lawsuits, over 800,000 former members of military service now suffer from hearing damage due to the defective earplugs.
The Department of Veteran Affairs now spends over $1 billion annually for treating hearing damage that service members suffer from.
Lawyers who are filing lawsuits against 3M say that there are people who served the United States with honor in highly dangerous conditions and are now suffering serious, life-altering injuries as a result of the misconduct of the company.
They say that all allegations made against the company are true and they have every intention to prove them at trial, whenever and wherever they are given the opportunity to do so.
The lawyers are working hard to make sure that 3M Company is held liable for causing injury to military personnel and that service members receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries and for the costs incurred for medical treatment as well as the pain and suffering they experienced.