U.S. veterans who used defective earplugs in combat may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. The faulty 3M-trademarked earplugs were used by all branches of the military between 2003 and 2015 and have been blamed for causing hearing loss and tinnitus in thousands of U.S. soldiers.
In 2018 Minnesota-based 3M settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department, paying $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the defective earplugs to the U.S. military.
The lawsuit was based on the False Claims Act as 3M reportedly knew the earplugs were defective as early as 2000 and sold them to the U.S. government without reporting the potentially harmful defect.
The Justice Department lawsuit did not address 3M’s liability for injuries but established that 3M supplied faulty earplugs to thousands of U.S. soldiers.
Did you use 3M combat earplugs?
The earplugs in question are Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), which were worn by all branches of the U.S. military both in the Iraq War and in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015.
Under a contract with the U.S. government, 3M supplied an estimated annual 15,000 earplug packages (50 pairs per package).
While 3M stopped making the defective product in 2015, the earplugs never recalled and thus were still in circulation and potentially used through other vendors, according to the Justice Department lawsuit.
What makes them faulty?
The earplugs were intended to block dangerously loud impulse sounds during combat while simultaneously allowing soldiers to hear quieter noises such as spoken commands and approaching enemies.
However, the ear plugs didn’t maintain a tight seal as the portion made to fit inside the ear canal was not long enough. This gap allowed more harmful noises to impact users’ ears. Thousands of wearers claim to experience hearing loss, tinnitus and loss of balance.
According to lawsuits against 3M, the company knew of the defect in the dual-ended Combat Arms and failed to report it.
Injuries Caused by Defective Combat Earplugs
Hearing loss and tinnitus are serious health issues that can affect a person’s quality of life. Hearing loss, in particular, can have persistent and disruptive health impacts. According to the American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), hearing loss has been linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, social isolation, and fatigue. It also has been tied to headaches, increased stress and blood pressure levels, and muscle tension.
Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that can come and go or be constant. Like hearing loss, tinnitus can affect the sufferer in varying degrees.
However, even moderate cases can interfere with a person’s ability to work and socialize, according to American Tinnitus Association (ATA). Tinnitus has also been linked to depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, poor concentration and other difficulties.
Who is eligible for compensation?
Now that 3M has agreed to providing defective earplugs through its settlement with the Justice Department, there could be opportunities for affected veterans to seek compensation for their injuries.
With the help of an experienced personal injury injury attorney, veterans who used these earplugs and suffer hearing loss and tinnitus can seek compensation in court.
Our Defective Product Attorneys Can Help if You Used Defective 3M Combat Earplugs and Suffered Hearing Loss or Deafness
A comprehensive lawsuit could seek compensation for both economic losses, including medical bills and lost income, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering from not being able to communicate effectively with people.
Seeking legal representation is the first step in recovering losses caused by this defective product and deceptive claims. Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras today if you’ve suffered hearing damage as a result of faulty ear plugs. All consultations are offered free of charge.