Update on 3M Earplug Lawsuits (November 2019)

military-personnel-battlefield-3m-earplug-hearing-loss-defectEvery serviceman and servicewoman working for the U.S. military expects that they will be provided the best standard issued equipment when fighting for the nation in combat. Our soldiers likely assume that every piece of equipment from helmets to boots will fit properly and provide ultimate protection against all situations in the field from bombs and firearms to harsh conditions in the environment. Unfortunately, our military force may have had their hearing and safety compromised from defective earplugs.

For twelve years between 2003 and 2015, the 3M Company and Aearo Technologies, Inc. manufactured and sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs – model CAEv2 to the United States military as standard issued equipment for service members deployed to combat zones around the world, including in the Middle East.

In 2018, as a result of an intensive lawsuit, the manufacturer agreed to a $9.1 million settlement filed by a manufacturing competitor and whistleblower Moldex-Metric, Inc. in a suit that was later joined by the US Department of Justice.

CAEv2 Earplug Defect

At the turn of the millennium, Aearo Technologies developed a dual-ended earplug design that provided two options to the user including a traditional earplug on one end that blocked most noise associated with explosions and gunfire and an alternative use on the other end for normal hearing. However, there was a manufacturing defect in the design that was shown to be too short to insert into the wearer’s ears properly. New testing has shown that without proper insertion into the user’s ears, the device can gradually loosen allowing noise to penetrate the wearer’s eardrums and cause damage.

The Combat Arms Earplugs are designed to use openings and constrictions in a sound channel to create a non-linear noise attenuation effect of restricting, limiting or blocking damaging noise levels that could cause total or partial hearing impairment. The military contracted with the 3M Company more than a decade ago to provide service members and others hearing protection from damaging noise caused by gunfire, explosions, jet engines, heavy machinery, and other loud sound situations.

Unfortunately, because of the defect, hundreds of servicemen and women and other law enforcement officers in the federal government have suffered partial to total hearing loss because imperceptibly the devices gradually loosened in their ears, rendering the earplugs useless. Many users were completely unaware that their hearing was at risk of damage while at work serving their nation.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a serious audio impairment where the sufferer hears constant or intermittent buzzing, ringing, hissing, humming, roaring or clicking. While doctors do not categorize tinnitus as a medical condition, the problem is likely caused by an underlying medical issue including hearing damage caused by ear injuries or APD (auditory processing disorder). Hearing problems associated with the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs CAEv2 might result in permanent hearing loss from the device’s failure to protect you from deafening noises including bomb blasts, gunfire, jet engines, heavy equipment other loud sounds.

Typically, the symptom is present even when there are no external noises, but symptoms can ‘come and go.’ Some individuals with tinnitus experience phantom noise that may sound like a high squeal or low roar at varying pitches that might occur in one or both ears. Soldiers experiencing work-related tinnitus can suffer from one or two forms of tinnitus. One type includes subjective tinnitus that can only be heard by the sufferer from ear canal damage with auditory (hearing) nerves or auditory pathways to the brain. Alternatively, objected tinnitus might involve an examining doctor who can also hear auditory sounds caused by muscle contractions, middle ear bone conditions, and blood vessel issues.

If you are suffering with auditory hearing loss or tendinitis, it is essential to contact the doctor for a comprehensive diagnosis.

The Manufacturer Likely Knew of the Defect

Nearly two decades ago, Aearo Technologies, the original developer of the Combat Arms Earplugs allegedly knew there were design defects long before 3M acquired the company. In 2000, Aearo Technologies likely knew their earplug devices failed to pass required safety tests. Recently, Minnesota-based 3M agreed to resolve allegations for $9.1 million without admitting wrongdoing.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were able to show that the defective design does not meet military safety standards as 3M and Aearo Technologies claimed. The device is now known to cause the development of partial or total hearing loss/tinnitus in users. Attorneys for the U.S. DOJ allege that the company failed to disclose the design defect to the military when finalizing the government contract for millions of devices.

The False Claims Act

Moldex-Metric, Inc. filed allegations against the 3M Company using the False Claims Act under the whistleblower provision. The law provides the opportunity for private parties to join the lawsuit on behalf of the federal government if the plaintiffs suspect that the defendants in the case submitted a false claim to obtain government funds.

The lawsuit settlement filed in July 2018 resolves Moldex-Metric and the U.S. DOJ allegations that 3M and Aearo Technologies violated the U.S. False Claims Act because they manufactured and sold the defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the military through the Defense Logistics Agency.

All whistleblower plaintiffs can share settlement monies if the lawsuit proves to be successful. Although the outcome of the case was a joint effort by the Department of Justice, the US Attorney’s office, the Army criminal investigation command, and defense criminal investigation service (DCIS), documentation shows that Moldex-Metric, Inc., the original whistleblower, will receive a part of the award totaling $1.9 million.

Robert Craig Jr., DCIS Special Agent in Charge, said that “the settlement demonstrates the commitment of the DCIS and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for supplying substandard products, and particular products that could directly impact our service members’ health and welfare.” The Special Agent also said that “DCIS protects the integrity of the Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the well-being of our troops.”

Lawsuit Facts

Understanding pertinent facts involved in the lawsuit can help you better understand if you are a victim of hearing loss and harmed by the defective 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs. These facts include:

  • The Product – The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and Moldex-Metric, Inc. alleges that the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs – model CAEv2 designed and manufactured with dual-ended cones are defective to wearers when the device loosens indiscernibly when worn.
  • The Allegations – The federal government and other parties allege that the 3M Company, a military contractor, signed a contractual agreement with the government knowing the Combat Arms Earplugs they manufactured and sold were defective. Also, the faulty components of the earplugs failed to meet military safety standards and have caused permanent hearing impairment/tinnitus in users.

As a part of the lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice conducted an independent investigation and uncovered that the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug devices did have a significant design defect and could not block out loud noises effectively.

  • The Settlement and Outcome – The negotiated settlement awarded the US military and other plaintiffs $9.1 million in July 2018. The settlement resolves every allegation that the 3M Company was responsible for knowingly selling earplugs that were defective to the Defense Logistics Agency. The agreement also verifies that the company failed to disclose that wearing the earplugs could cause wearers to experience irreparable hearing impairment, although 3M denies liability.
  • The Statute of Limitations – To determine eligibility for financial compensation, plaintiffs in future lawsuits against 3M must have served in the United States military within a time frame between 2003 and 2015; and, experienced minimal to extensive hearing impairment after wearing earplugs manufactured by the 3M Company. To move forward, injured victims that meet the eligibility requirements must file all the necessary paperwork in the proper courthouse before the statute of limitations expires.
  • Lawsuit Participation Costs – Our law firm never charges upfront cost or fees until after we have recovered monetary recovery to resolve your injury claim. Also, we provide an initial, free, no-obligation case evaluations. If you think you deserve financial compensation or want to discuss the eligibility criteria for filing a lawsuit, contact a Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers now to discuss your potential claim.
  • Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers – Jonathan Rosenfeld and his team of attorneys fight aggressively on behalf of military personnel to ensure their legal rights remain protected. We understand the dedication you and your family have made in serving and protecting our nation and want to provide the legal representation you need.

Lawsuit Update: November 2019

The number of lawsuits, in this case, has continued to increase.  There has been a great deal of publicity surrounding the case which has caused numerous plaintiffs to come forward and file their own cases.  As of October 2019, there were almost 2,300 cases that are a part of the multi-district litigation and new lawsuits are being filed.  This is up from 2,051 cases in August.

The 3M combat earplugs lawsuit is centered in the Northern District of Florida. The assigned judge is M. Casey Rogers, who is the Chief Judge for the district. Recently, the court issued an order dismissing the multi-plaintiff complaints that have been filed in this case. However, plaintiffs, in this case, have been given an opportunity by the court to file their own individual complaints in the case.  Plaintiffs can file a short-form complaint based on the master complaint in the case.

The court has laid out some procedures and requirements for the serving of discovery requests.  The court has also appointed a Special Master to help oversee discovery as it pertains to the United States Department of Defense and Department of Justice.

Are You an Injured Servicemember? Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Can Help

If you believe you were injured and suffered partial or total hearing loss caused by the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, you likely deserve monetary recovery for your injuries, pain and suffering from the defective product. We encourage you to contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers toll-free, 24/7 at (888) 424-5757 or fill in the contact form to speak with us today. Let our team of attorneys assist you in finding answers to your questions and further discuss all your legal options for financial compensation.

This blog information provides general information for non-legal purposes only and does not intend to create an attorney-client relationship.