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Recent Developments on Veteran's 3M Earplugs Lawsuits

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A federal court in Florida will hear legal claims by U.S. military veterans from across the country who say design flaws in 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs caused them hearing damage, including deafness.

A Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) decided that lawsuits against Minnesota-based 3M Company regarding defective military-issued earplugs involved common questions of fact and that centralization of the cases would allow more efficient handling of the cases by the federal courts during the pre-trial process. 

The federal judicial panel’s order consolidates more than 680 lawsuits to be heard by the Federal Northern District of Florida under U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers. Judge Rodgers has experience presiding over large multi-district product liability litigation. 

The combined claims in the new MDL allege that 3M’s Combat Arms  Earplugs were defective and caused service personnel to develop hearing loss and/or a condition known as “tinnitus.” Tinnitus involves ringing or buzzing in the ears. If you think you have the basis for such a Combat Arms Earplug injury claim, the mass torts lawyers of Hardison & Cochran are currently reviewing these cases. Hardison & Cochran may be able to help you seek compensation for your hearing loss if you were harmed by dual-ended Combat Arms  Earplugs.

What is the Problem with 3M Earplugs Issued by the Military?

The 3M earplugs alleged to have a dangerous design flaw are the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEV2). The dual-ended design was supposed to offer two levels of hearing protection.

But the lawsuits claim the CAEV2 earplugs failed because they possessed a dangerous design defect that caused them to imperceptibly loosen in the wearer’s ear. That allowed damaging noise to enter the ear canal around the outside of the earplug.

3M allegedly knew about the earplugs’ defects as early as the year 2000 but falsified certification documents approving them for military use.

The CAEV2 was originally developed and manufactured by Aearo Technologies, Inc. The 3M Company acquired Aearo Technologies in 2008 and was the exclusive supplier of the earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency through 2015.

3M has said the allegedly defective earplugs were never recalled and thus may still be in use in the field. It denies the earplugs were defectively designed.

3M Agrees to Settle Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit

3M has already agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold its earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military’s global supplier, without disclosing defects that decreased hearing protection.

The lawsuit, United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.), alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the Combat Arms Version 2 earplug was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen and not provide hearing protection for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M’s product testing methodology did not comply with accepted standards and the company did not disclose the earplugs’ design defect to the military. The suit also alleged that the noise reduction rating listed on the packaging of the CAEV2 earplugs did not accurately represent the product’s effectiveness. 

This lawsuit was filed by an employee of Moldex-Metric Inc., which also manufactures hearing protection, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government and to share in any money recovered when they believe that defendants have submitted false information to obtain government funds. The whistleblower, in this case, was awarded more than $1.9 million. 

As part of the July 2018 settlement agreement, 3M did not admit liability, meaning the claims in the lawsuit have not been adjudicated as valid.

Are You a Veteran Injured by Defective 3M Earplugs? We Can Help You

The Raleigh-Durham area, the Fayetteville area and other parts of North Carolina are home to numerous former servicemen who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2015. If you have hearing loss, tinnitus or balance problems, your condition may be related to using of the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEV2). They were issued to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The $9.1 million settlement reached between the Justice Department and 3M will not provide compensation to veterans who have suffered hearing loss as a result of using Combat Arms Earplugs. Veterans who have sustained hearing damage must file separate lawsuits to recover compensation for their losses.

If the MDL is settled, there will be an opportunity for new plaintiffs to join in the proceeds of what is certain to be a large settlement or judgment.

Several organizations watching the case say tens of thousands more veterans may join the MDL. There may be as many as 800,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who have suffered hearing loss attributable to CAEV2 design defects, the Ring of Fire news site says. Treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus now costs the VA health care system over $1 billion a year.

Regardless of which legal option is correct for you, it is important to begin work as soon as possible to gather documentation of your military service and deployments to substantiate your use of the CAEV2 earplugs.

The experienced mass torts product liability claims lawyers of Hardison & Cochran in Raleigh can evaluate your hearing loss claim and discuss your legal options during a free, no-obligation consultation. If Hardison & Cochran represents you in a 3M earplug lawsuit, our attorneys will handle your case on a contingency-fee basis. That means you will not have any out-of-pocket costs and will not be charged any legal fee unless we are successful in obtaining financial compensation for you through a settlement or jury award.

If you have hearing loss or ear-related balance problems and may have used the Combat Arms Version 2 earplug while in U.S. military service, we urge you to contact Hardison & Cochran today for legal assistance that can help you obtain compensation for your suffering.

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