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3M Sold Defective Earplugs to the Military for 13 Years

Update Date: Jul 22, 2019 10:25 AM EDT

Military members who suffer from hearing loss may be able to sue 3M over their defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. The company sold the earplugs to military members between 2002 and 2015 through a government contract.

The Department of Justice investigated the matter in which 3m agreed to pay $9.1 million to the department.

How the Earplugs Failed to Protect Service Members

Military members who dealt with heavy artillery may have worn these defective earplugs. The earplugs were designed to cancel out noise so that the member's hearing was not damaged on the field.

Explosions, gunfire, tanks, aircraft and bombs can all lead to permanent hearing loss.

Annually, $1 billion is spent in medical costs relating to military member hearing loss. It's estimated that over 800,000 veterans suffer from hearing loss due to their time as a military member.

There are over 2.7 million veterans that are on disability because of hearing loss.

3M's earplugs were defective. The company knew of the defect, but did not correct it. The design flaw was simple: the devices were too short. The earplugs would loosen due to their short length.

As the loosening occurred, sounds were able to enter the ear canal, causing hearing damage in the process.

Veterans suffered from:

  • Total hearing loss

  • Partial hearing loss

  • Tinnitus

A whistleblower came forward in 2018 and released evidence that 3M was informed about the defect as early as 2000. Marketing never reflected that the earplugs were defective, and the company continued to market their earplugs before gaining a government contract.

The company willingly sold the earplugs to the government, knowing that they were meant for the military, without disclosing that veterans could potentially go deaf due to the defect.

The government does have to inspect and approve products that they purchase under contract. 3M is trying to argue that the government accepted the contract after conducting their own internal inspection of the earplugs.

But failing to alert the government of the defect falls under the False Claims Act (FCA).

The $9.1 million is not enough to cover even one-percent of the medical costs that the government is paying out to veterans with hearing loss annually. Those impacted due to the defective products will not receive a penny from the settlement.

It's a shame for veterans who put their lives on the line and unknowingly went deaf in the process because they trusted in 3M.

How Veterans Can Take Action Against 3M

The government settlement does nothing to protect veterans. The settlement did not end in 3M admitting fault, so it's up to all military members who suffered from a loss of hearing due to the defective earplugs to file their own lawsuits.

Five new cases per day are being filed against 3M, and if you're one of the unfortunate persons impacted by hearing loss, it's time to file a lawsuit.

The lawsuit is currently a mass tort lawsuit rather than a class action lawsuit, and the payout is likely to depend on the individual's extent of damage rather than be a standard payout.

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