Military Hearing Loss – Defective 3M Earplugs Case

Case Study

Defective Combat Arms 3M Earplugs, Version 2

In July of 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice announced that 3M/Aero would pay $9.1 million to settle a False Claims Act suit that accused them of knowingly selling defective Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the U.S. military.

About This Case

The 3M Earplug cases have been transferred as Multidistrict Litigation 2855 to the Northern District of Florida (Pensacola). Nationally recognized Judge Casey Rodgers is presiding over the case. Our skilled Mass Torts Attorneys, Ed Rowan and Amanda Summerlin, are heading up the 3m Earplug Litigation.
Dangerous ProductsCombat Arms Earplugs
Time FrameOngoing
LawyerEd Rowen & Amanda Summerlin

Hundreds of veterans are now filing lawsuits against the government contractor 3M/Aero that manufactured and sold defective earplugs to the military. These earplugs did not maintain a tight seal around the user’s ear allowing dangerously loud sounds to permeate through without the wearer knowing. These discontinued dual-ended CAEv2 combat earplugs were standard issue for military service members from 2003 to 2015. The use of these defective 3M earplugs may have caused significant hearing loss in many military veterans. Any current and former military service members who served in the armed forces when these earplugs were issued may be entitled to compensation from 3M/Aero for hearing loss or tinnitus.

What Do We Know About The Defective 3M Earplug Lawsuits?

In July of 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice announced that 3M/Aero would pay $9.1 million to settle a False Claims Act suit that accused them of knowingly selling defective Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the U.S. military. The settlement was fueled by allegations that 3M/Aero sold the earplugs, knowing they were too short to be correctly inserted into a user’s ears. The military purchased these earplugs with the understanding that their service members would be able to hear “commands from friendly soldiers and approaching enemy combatants, unimpaired, in the same way as if they had nothing in their ear.” (1) These dual-end earplugs were designed to be used as traditional earplugs, or they could be adjusted to soften loud decimal sounds while still letting through quieter noise. Unfortunately, the CAEv2 earplugs were too shallow to stay in many ear canals, and would gradually loosen and fail to reduce loud noises properly.

“During 3M/Aero’s testing of the earplugs, there was not a proper seal between a certain number of the subjects’ ear canal and the earplug, thereby allowing noise to bypass the earplug filter and go directly into the ear canal. As a result, certain test subjects had large standard deviations across trials.” (1) In the case settlement, The U.S. Department of Justice alleged that the company who sold the standard issue earplugs to the military knew about the design problems as early as 2000 when it completed testing of the earplugs. “3M/Aero knew before selling the earplugs to the military of the unreliable test results, and they did not provide proper instructions on how to fit the earplugs for maximum protection.”(1)

According to the Department of Justice:

  • 3M/Aero knew about the defective 3M earplugs before they became military standard issue.
  • Falsely certified that the earplugs met all standard compliance regulations.
  • Blocked other companies from usurping their military contract.
  • Willingly sold a defective earplug that put members of the armed forces in unnecessary harm’s way.

After a whistleblower brought this case to light, the Department of Justice moved swiftly to make sure that the matter was addressed. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division.  “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.” (2) In the case of the defective earplugs, 3M/Aero could eventually settle more than $9.1 million in total, as more veterans begin to come forward and file their own military hearing loss lawsuits.

What Are The Types of Military Hearing Loss?

Tinnitus 

Tinnitus is one of the more common forms of disability among veterans. Due to service members’ exposure to consistent damaging sounds from aircraft noise, explosions, machinery, and gunfire, symptoms of tinnitus are a common side effect for many military members. Unfortunately, tinnitus can have long-term consequences. Depending on the person, and their varying degrees of exposure, they may experience intermittent or continuous tinnitus symptoms such as:

  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Ringing
  • Roaring
  • Whistling

While Most servicemen and women wear earplugs to help protect their hearing, the defective 3M earplugs used by soldiers between 2003-2015 proved ineffective. This lack of proper ear protection left many men and women suffering from life-altering hearing deficiencies, such as difficulty concentrating, sleeping and in most cases this condition is permanent.

Hearing Loss:

For many people, hearing loss is a gradual process that can take many years to manifest. People may not realize they have hearing loss until they begin to have difficulty understanding words, turn their head to hear better or have the volume up on the television or radio to the highest levels. Without proper ear protection, a typical military job can cause severe damage to a person’s ears. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.” (3) Below are a few examples of the level of decibels that a veteran might encounter:

  • Average gunshot sound: 150 decibels
  • Military jet aircraft taking off at 50 feet: 130 decibels
  • Jet flyover at 1000 feet: 103 decibels
  • Garbage disposal: 80 decibels
  • Driving in a car at 65mph: 70 decibels
  • Conversation in a restaurant: 60 decibels
  • Conversation at home: 50 decibels
  • Whispering: 10 decibels

The average person may not experience long exposure of sounds above 85 decibels, but for a military service member, numbers above 85 decibels are quite common during their work days.  Many service members drill with weapons daily or work at air stations with constant jet or plane departures and arrivals. Many were also deployed from 2003-2015 and have been in active war zones without the proper protective ear cover.

Contact a Military Hearing Loss Attorney TODAY!

If you believe that you might have military hearing loss due to defective 3M earplugs and you served in the military during 2003-2015, you should contact a professional to discuss your options. An experienced military hearing loss lawyer at Taylor Martino P.C., will assess your case and aid in protecting your rights. Having a lawyer is especially crucial to help assist in all of the proper paperwork and the first steps for filing a lawsuit. If you’ve experienced military hearing loss from defective 3M earplugs, call Taylor Martino to take legal action today!

To learn more, contact Taylor Martino P.C. Personal Injury Lawyers for a completely free case evaluation by calling 1-800-256-7728 today!

References:

  1. https://www.docketbird.com/court-documents/United-States-of-America-et-al-v-3m-Company/COMPLAINT-against-3M-Company-Filing-fee-400-receipt-number-0420-6549289-filed-by-Moldex-Metric-Inc/scd-3:2016-cv-01533-00001
  2. http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm
  3. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  4. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/02/14/hundreds-of-vets-are-suing-over-these-defective-combat-earplugs/
  5. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/3m-company-agrees-pay-91-million-resolve-allegations-it-supplied-united-states-defective-dual
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