Vets Suing 3M Over Defective Military Earplugs

Defective Combat Earplugs

Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. In fact, about 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job making occupational hearing loss the third most common chronic physical condition among adults. Statistics from NIOSH show:

  • About 12% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty.
  • About 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by occupational exposures.
  • About 8% of the U.S. working population suffers from ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and 4% has both hearing difficulty and tinnitus.

Hearing Protection for US Military

Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 or CAEv2 were marketed to the military as an advanced hearing protection device that could block out high-impact noises from the battlefield. These earplugs were used by many deployed to Iran and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015.

Unfortunately, the earplugs didn’t maintain a tight seal, which allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through without the wearer knowing, leading to severe unilateral or bilateral hearing loss for some.

The earplugs had been sold to the U.S. military for over a decade, starting in 2003 and ending in 2015 when the product was discontinued (not recalled) by 3M.

Defective Army Earplugs Lawsuits

Hundreds of veterans are filing lawsuits against 3M Company, the government contractor who manufactured and sold the defective combat earplugs to the military, alleging their hearing loss or impairment (either in one or both ears) is due to the defective earplugs.

One such lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District in Kansas City by Kelby Rice who served in the Army from 2003 to 2010. Rice, a Tennessee resident, filed in Missouri because he had used the earplugs while training at Fort Leonard Wood.

Rice’s lawsuit alleges that 3M sold the trademarked Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs to the U.S. military even after it was aware of problems with the device. The lawsuit accuses the company of:

  • Fraud, deceit and negligence
  • Willfully and intentionally concealing the dangerous and serious safety concerns of the earplugs

Rice who had no signs of hearing loss before joining the service, was diagnosed with tinnitus in January 2019

Similar lawsuits allege the company designed the earplugs in a defective manner and failed to warn users of the defect or provide proper instructions for their use. This failure has allegedly resulted in hearing loss, tinnitus and loss of balance in those who used 3M’s dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs during their military service between 2003 and 2015.

In July 2018, 3M reached a $9.1 million settlement to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold these earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the hearing protection. The government claimed the earplugs were found to be too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly, making them ineffective for some people.

Need Legal Assistance?

Members of the military who were issued these defective Combat Arms Earplugs may be entitled to receive compensation. Contact the Nash & Franciskato Law Firm for a free, no-obligation review of your case.

Contact us for a free review of your case

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