The men and women serving in our military make sacrifices for their country every day. When what they give up is related to a physical injury, it could affect the rest of their lives. One of the challenges of serving in a combat zone is the noise and the potential for hearing loss.
While the human ear can spend hours a day exposed to noise at levels that mimic a crowded freeway, the risk of hearing damage increases as the noise level rises. That is why 3M supplied troops with dual-ended earplugs between 2003 and 2015. Unfortunately, due to a design defect, these earplugs did not operate properly. Victims of injuries can file a 3M defective combat earplugs lawsuit.
Why Were the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Considered Defective?
As mentioned, combat zones during times of war are incredibly loud. Explosives, aircrafts, gunfire, and vehicles contribute to the rising decibels. To protect soldiers’ ears, Aearo Technologies, Inc. initially designed and supplied the Combat Arms dual-ended earplugs. Later, 3M provided them for troops.
The earplugs were intended to serve two purposes, with an open end and a closed end. The open end allowed soldiers to hear sounds at a reasonable level. This was so they could listen to orders or hear others approaching. The closed end was supposed to provide hearing protection against damaging noises, including dangerous impulse noises.
The Combat Arms earplugs were the only ones used by U.S. military members. The double-cone like ends were distinguished by color, so it was easy to determine which side to use depending on the environment. The open end was yellow, while the closed end was olive green.
According to allegations from a Qui Tam case filed in May 2016, neither end operated as intended. This is because the yellow fins on the earplug interfered with forming a tight seal in the ear canal unless folded back. The alleged defect exposed soldiers to dangerous volumes of noise. This exposure had the potential to cause hearing loss or ringing in the ears.
If you believe you used these earplugs while you were actively serving and are now dealing with a hearing loss diagnosis, taking legal action with our attorneys could lead to compensation for your related medical expenses and more.
The Results of the Whistleblower Lawsuit
In 2013, a False Claims Act case was filed against 3M for the dual-ended earplugs. This type of lawsuit gives any private citizen the right to sue another individual or company that they believe is defrauding the government. Funds can be recovered on the government’s behalf. A Qui Tam lawsuit is kept a secret from the public in order to give the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations.
With this claim, allegations against Aearo Technologies and 3M claimed the company provided defective dual-ended earplugs to U.S. military personnel after testing the products with methods that did not comply with accepted standards. The lawsuit also claimed 3M knowingly labeled the earplugs with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that did not match up with the actual performance. Finally, claims were made that 3M supplied the United States Government with the devices and requested payment without disclosing the defect, inadequate testing process, or the incorrect NRR.
As a result of the whistleblower lawsuit, a settlement between 3M and the U.S. Government was announced in July 2018. 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million dollars without admitting any liability.
Who Can Seek Compensation Now?
While the False Claims Act case allowed the Government to collect compensation for the damages related to 3M’s earplugs, the soldiers who the product injured are not included. They must seek compensation on their own. If you had Combat Arms dual-ended earplugs while overseas from 2003 to 2015, you may be eligible for compensation.
Many U.S. Armed Forces members who may have sustained injuries could have served during the War of Afghanistan, Iraq War, War in North-West Pakistan, War in Somalia, Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, American-led interventions in Libya, Iraq, or Syria, Yemeni Civil War, or the American Intervention in Libya.
You can find out about your eligibility for compensation by contacting one of our lawyers. For instance, you could be part of a mass tort, which typically involves a group of wronged individuals who sustained injuries around the same time in a similar geographic area.
Start Your Claim with Solomon Law Group Today
If you served in the military, believe you used the Combat Arms dual-ended earplugs, and are suffering from permanent hearing loss or tinnitus, you may have the grounds to file a product liability claim. Our personal injury lawyers can evaluate your claim and determine if you should get compensation for your losses.
It’s possible multidistrict litigation (MDL) will be formed for victims of this product liability. This refers to the special federal legal process designed to speed up complex cases. We have the experience and knowledge needed to give our clients a voice, so companies like 3M get the message that they were negligent and should be held responsible for knowingly putting U.S. service members in harm’s way. No matter what the product, companies need to prioritize the safety of their consumers over their bottom line.
To learn more about the possibility of a mass tort and to find out about your legal rights and options, contact our firm online at your earliest convenience. You can also call our office at 803-219-8870. The sooner you get in touch with our lawyers, the sooner we can work to help you get your life back in order.