3M Defective Earplugs Lawsuit
Members of the U.S. military are routinely outfitted with gear to provide hearing protection. But if you served between 2003 and 2015 and are suffering from tinnitus or hearing loss, you may have been issued defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs. You may also be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.
Hundreds of veterans and active-duty military personnel have brought lawsuits against 3M alleging that the Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) that is provided to the military caused serious hearing damage due to a design defect. The U.S. Department of Justice settled a $9.1 million lawsuit with 3M in July 2018. But those funds went to the federal government, which may have given deserving servicemen and women the impression that they could not pursue compensation on their own. But that’s not the case — and Stewart Law Offices can help.
Our experienced worker’s compensation attorneys recognize and respect the sacrifices made by our nation’s military servicemembers. We will demand maximum compensation for hearing damage caused by defective 3M earplugs, which can include money for medical bills, future medical treatment, pain, and suffering, lost earning capacity and more.
It costs nothing to learn your legal options. Call or contact us today to discuss your case in a free consultation.
Why are the 3M Earplugs Defective?
The Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) are dual-ended earplugs that were supposed to offer two levels of protection. Wearing one side would block out all sound, while the other side would filter out harmful sounds like gunfire while still allowing servicemembers to hear orders and speak with others.
The problem: The earplugs were too short to fit properly into the ear canal. They could loosen imperceptibly in some wearers’ ears, making them ineffective for noise cancellation.
Due to that defect, servicemembers have experienced injuries such as:
- Temporary or permanent hearing loss
- Loss of balance
- Communication problems
- Emotional distress
The CAEv2 were originally made by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which had the exclusive contract to supply earplugs to the military. 3M acquired Aearo in 2008 and the contract passed to them. The company continued to supply defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency until 2015. The earplugs were issued to servicemembers across multiple military branches, including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard, and Reserves.
Injuries Associated with the Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2
Hearing impairments are among the most common injuries suffered by military personnel. The nature of the job often puts servicemembers in noisy situations caused by firearms, artillery, jet engines and industrial activities. That’s why effective earplugs are so essential — and the U.S. government trusted 3M to provide them with such a product for decades.
The design flaw in the 3M Combat Arms earplugs has led to serious injuries, including:
- Hearing loss: Exposure to short bursts of loud noise or continuous low-level noise can damage the delicate tissues and hairs that protect the ear. That can cause the tissues to stretch beyond their limits or lead to metabolic changes that result in cell death, both of which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
- Tinnitus: Ear injuries can also cause people to hear a ringing, buzzing, humming or clicking sound that can be constant or occur periodically. Serious cases may make it difficult for a person to differentiate between certain sounds in speech. That can limit his or her ability to communicate with others. As a result, many soldiers with hearing problems suffer from depression.
- Loss of balance: The inner ear plays a central role in maintaining balance. Damage to those structures can contribute to balance problems that limit the types of jobs and activities that servicemen and women can do during and after military service.
Who Can Make a Claim for 3M Defective Earplugs Compensation?
You may be entitled to file a defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs claim if you:
- Served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard or Reserves between 2003 and 2015
- Were deployed or participated in training missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria
- Were issued Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2)
- Have been diagnosed with hearing loss, tinnitus or other hearing-related conditions
If you are coping with hearing problems related to your military service, the 3M defective earplugs attorneys at Stewart Law Offices can meet with you to discuss your rights to compensation. We know that hearing loss is more than just a medical condition — it impacts your overall quality of life. Our lawyers will fight for compensation to enable you to seek the best health care and enjoy life again.
Understanding the Impact of Defective Earplugs on Soldiers
The lengthy relationship between 3M and the U.S. government means that the potential scope of hearing damage to military personnel is huge. Reports say that the military received an estimated annual quantity of 15,000 earplug packages (with 50 pairs per package) every year. That means that millions of service members may be suffering from hearing problems caused by 3M Combat Arms Earplugs.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hearing loss can occur when a person is exposed to 85 decibels or higher over an 8-hour workday. Once noise levels exceed 100 decibels, it can take as little as 15 minutes for hearing loss to occur. Military jobs routinely exceed those levels, both during active combat and routine operations.
“Almost every soldier, sailor, airman or marine will be exposed to hazardous noise levels at some point in their career,” an article in the journal Military Medical News noted in 2015.
The journal went on to list the average noise levels present in military equipment in several branches of the Armed Services:
Military weapons are capable of causing extensive short-burst hearing damage. For example, a .45 to .70-caliber rifle emits sounds ranging from 155.2 to 155.9 decibels (dB). A hand grenade can produce sounds of up to 158 dB, well over the OSHA limits.
Other weapons and their peak sound levels include:
- 20-gauge shotgun:8 dB
- 12-gauge shotgun: 156.1-161.5 dB
- .22 pistol: 151 dB
- 9 mm Luger: 169-163 dB
- Light anti-tank weapon: 184 dB
Engine rooms produce the most noise among all Navy ships, according to the researchers. Sound levels can range from anywhere between 98 to 160 adjusted decibels (dbA), which is a weighted measurement that accounts for individual hearing perceptions. The loudest noise generated on any Navy vessel occurs on carrier decks, while the quieter ships are landing ship tanks and patrol vessels.
Military aircraft are also loud, exposing service members to excessive noise during missions. Examples include:
- Service helicopters: 97-100 dbA
- Fighter planes: 97- 104 dbA
- Jet trainers: 100-106 dbA
- Transporter aircraft: 88-101 dbA
In addition, pilots often experience hearing impairments due to chronic noise exposure in aircrafts over time.
High noise levels were an expected part of military service for many personnel. But they had the right to expect that the 3M Combat Arms earplugs that they were issued would shield them from the worst of the noise. When manufacturers choose profit over consumer protection, they can and should be held liable for their actions.
Will the Federal Defective Earplugs Lawsuit Affect My Case?
The federal 3M defective earplugs case does not prevent you from filing a personal injury claim against the company. Here’s why:
The $9.1 million settlement between the Department of Justice and 3M resolved a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged that the company knew that the Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were defective and provided them to the military anyway.
Among the allegations were that:
- 3M and Aearo Technologies were aware that there were design flaws in the Combat Arms Earplugs dating back to 2000.
- 3M violated the federal False Claims Act by concealing the flaw.
- The company did not adhere to accepted safety standards by testing the earplugs in- house rather than outsourcing it.
- 3M falsified the noise reduction rating on the Combat Arms Earplugs to indicate that they were strong enough protect against military noise when they were not.
In the settlement, 3M did not admit liability and no recalls have been issued for the earplugs. All money from the federal settlement went to the government and the whistleblower who initiated that lawsuit. The whistleblower received $1.9 million.
By contrast, your claim against 3M will be an individual, private lawsuit. Due to the large influx of cases from servicemembers that used the defective earplugs, the lawsuits have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. This is called multi-district litigation (MDL).
Although the MDLs center on common facts related to the design and sale of the dual-ended earplugs, each claim will be decided individually. Any compensation that you may receive would be for the benefit of you and your family.
What If I Already Get Veterans’ Benefits for Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the most common service-connected disabilities among VA benefits recipients. Getting VA benefits does not disqualify you from filing a legal claim against 3M.
Veterans’ benefits are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to former service members as long as they can prove that their disabilities occurred during military service and they were not dishonorably discharged. If you receive VA benefits for hearing loss, that money will not be in jeopardy if you file a defective earplugs lawsuit. Military compensation and legal compensation are two entirely different forms of income.
How We Can Help
You may be wondering how we will try to prove that you used the Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) during service. Our product liability lawyers may be able to identify where the earplugs were distributed by obtaining and examining military records. You and other members of your unit may also have pictures showing that you were wearing the earplugs that injured you. Rest assured that our legal team will pursue a solid, evidence-based legal claim for compensation.
You also should know that Stewart Law Offices charges no up-front fees to review and prepare your case. We only get paid a legal fee if we recover compensation for you.*
If you’re ready to discuss your case, please call or contact us today to get started.
Military Medical Research: “Impact of noise on hearing in the military.”
Mayo Clinic: “Tinnitus.”
The Military Times: “Hundreds of vets are suing over these defective combat earplugs.”
Optimum Safety Management: “Noise and The Importance of Hearing Protection In The Workplace.”