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According to theHearing Health Foundation, ringing in the ears, tinnitus, and hearing loss are the most common health issues veterans face. These conditions can lead to further health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. In response, the government procured hearing protection options, including the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 for active military personnel.
History and Design of Combat Arms Earplugs
Aearo Technologies created Combat Arms Earplugs and established the original contract with the government, which made the earplugs standard issue for nearly all branches of the military from 2003 to 2015. The dual-ended earplugs could be switched around for either fuller or lesser ear protection to allow the user to hear commands and conversations from others during training or on the field of battle. In 2008, 3M acquired Aearo Technologies, overtaking the government contract and the associated responsibility for producing the earplugs.
After learning of ongoing claims of hearing issues resulting from potentially defective earplugs, 3M competitor Moldex brought a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M. The lawsuit claims a design flaw made the earplugs too short to be correctly inserted into ears, increasing the chances the earplugs would loosen and lead to possible hearing damage.
In the lawsuit, Moldex claimed Aearo Technologies and 3M were not only aware of the defect as early as 2000 but also that the testing was deliberately flawed. 3M maintained that the company had no previous knowledge of defects, and both Aearo Technologies and 3M alleged the earplugs held up to specified ear protection ratings.
Settlement and Trust
In 2018, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a settlement with 3M to pay $9.1 million in the lawsuit that claimed the companies did not disclose known defects in the earplugs. In June 2022, 3M stated that over 230,000 claims have been filed for compensation. To ease the potentially lengthy litigation process, 3M has now committed to establishing a $1 billion trust, with an additional $240 million for other expenses related to the lawsuit.
If you feel you may have suffered tinnitus or hearing damage due to using defective Combat Arms Earplugs while serving in the military, you may be entitled to compensation in this product liability case.
The team at Cok Kinzler will help discuss the details of this product liability lawsuit and the associated statute of limitations. Get in touch for your free consultation.