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Thousands of combat veterans are filing lawsuits against the 3M Company, a government contractor that manufactured and sold defective combat earplugs to the military.
As of the end of 2019, 3M Company and its subsidiary, Aearo Technologies, have faced over 2,000 lawsuits in a Florida federal court for their dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs according to court records. Soldiers and veterans accuse 3M of knowingly selling defective products to the U.S. military and failing to warn the troops of the defects by falsifying research.
In Texas, over one hundred lawsuits have been filed over permanent hearing damage caused by the defective 3m Combat Arms Earplugs. “Due to the widespread damage caused to veterans by 3M’s actions, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg of lawsuits that will be filed to hold 3M accountable,” Mo Aziz, attorney for Houston-based law firm, Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Azizone of the attorneys involved, said in a statement.
The earplugs did not maintain a tight seal and allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through without the wearer always knowing. Others have claimed it was clear the earplugs did not work, but there were no alternatives available.
The lawsuits allege that Minnesota-based 3M Company designed the earplugs in a defective manner and failed to warn users of the defect or to provide proper instructions for their use, according to the Military Times. This failure resulted in hearing loss, loss of balance and tinnitus, which is one of the most common combat injuries from those deployed to the Middle East, between the years of 2003 and 2015.
In July 2018, the 3M Company paid a $9.1 million settlement on a whistleblower lawsuit claiming it knowingly sold defective dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs (CAEv2) to the military.
In early 2020, Lawsuits filed by nearly 40 U.S. veterans who sued 3M Co. for defective earplugs and hearing loss have been moved to federal court in Minnesota from Hennepin County District Court at the request of 3M according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. Some of these cases are moving into a multidistrict litigation case handled by a federal judge in Florida. Many more lawsuits are expected to follow.
In 2006, the United States government agreed to a defense contract with 3M to be supplied with an estimated 15,000 50-pack combat earplugs every year for a guaranteed price of $9 million minimum in sales per year.
The earplugs continued to be sold to the military until 2015 when 3M discontinued the manufacture of dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs. However, they never issued a recall, and they are likely to be still used to this day by soldiers as well as stocked by vendors. 3M responded in a comment to CBS News that 3M has “a long history of partnering with the U.S. military” and continues to make products to protect our troops. They continued to deny any wrongdoing in the design of the earplugs.
The U.S. government has alleged the manufacturer of these earplugs were aware of a design defect and hid the flaws to receive the military contract in their lawsuit settled in 2018.
Eric Ridenour’s journalism experience began in the 1990s. He was a contributing writer to various publications, investigating government waste and fraud while studying journalism at Citrus College in California. In 2002, he joined the staff of University Wire, or UWire, in Carlsbad, California, where he was an editor until 2010.