Why veterans sued 3M over these defective earplugs
Between 2003 and 2015, the Combat ArmsTM earplugs were sold to the military by 3M. There was evidence that the Minnesota-based company designed the earplugs in a defective manner and failed to warn users of the defect or provide proper instructions for use. The earplugs allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through because they failed to maintain a tight seal in veterans’ ears and fell out.
A whistleblower lawsuit was filed against 3M by the Department of Justice accusing 3M of knowingly selling defective earplugs to the military. The case alleged that 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies Inc. sold its Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the Defense Logistics Agency knowing that the earplugs were too short to be properly inserted into people’s ears. This prevented a proper fit and therefore did not provide appropriate protection from noise.
3M falsified information to sell the Combat Arms earplugs to the military
The 3M earplug lawsuit filed by the Justice Department revealed that 3M falsified information so they could sell the defective earplugs to the military. And although that lawsuit uncovered explosive evidence exposing 3M’s scheme, the claims within the settlement were allegations only. According to the Justice Department, there was no determination of liability made in that lawsuit.
That’s why we represented service members and veterans (including people who served in the Reserves and the National Guard) who were harmed by 3M’s actions.
The result of the lawsuit is proof that 3M defrauded the government out of millions of dollars and intentionally harmed thousands of soldiers in the process. Evidence uncovered in the whistleblower lawsuit includes:
- Documents and testing alleging that 3M employees knew about the earplug defects as early as 2000.
- The company’s contract with the U.S. Government guaranteed the company would supply approximately 15,000 earplug packages each year. Each earplug package contained 50 pairs. That’s an estimated 9,000,000 pairs of defective earplugs sold to the military between 2003 and 2015.
- 3M was guaranteed to make at least $9 million per year from selling the Combat Arms version 2 earplugs to the military.
- The company did not disclose the modified fitting instructions necessary to achieve appropriate hearing protection.
- The earplugs were discontinued in 2015.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are linked to PTSD, depression, and anxiety in veterans
There is a strong correlation between veterans with hearing problems and PTSD, depression, and anxiety. A review conducted by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center conducted a chart review of veterans suffering from hearing loss over a four year period. This data was then used to investigate the correlation between hearing loss and the presence of PTSD. They found that 34% of the veterans in the study diagnosed with tinnitus also carried a diagnosis of PTSD.
Percentage of Veterans who have anxiety, depression, or both caused by tinnitus*
- Anxiety: 79.1%
- Depression: 59.3%
- Both: 58.2%
*Based on a 2015 study of veterans conducted by the National Institute of Health
Those with a military occupational specialty linked to hazardous noise exposure may have had a claim
Many veterans with a military occupational specialty (MOS) have not yet received a hearing loss evaluation from the VA or had their hearing loss disability claim approved yet. The same goes for tinnitus. Some veterans haven’t taken action on these cases because they can’t pinpoint one event when their hearing loss happened.
The VA has determined that if your MOS noise exposure level was “highly probable” or “moderate,” they can use your MOS as the event that caused your hearing loss while in service. That also means if you were issued the 3M Combat Arms earplugs and your MOS noise exposure level is “highly probable” or “moderate,” you could have qualified for the lawsuit, even if you haven’t received a VA hearing diagnosis or been granted disability for tinnitus or hearing loss.
A few of the MOS Noise Exposure Levels with a “high probability” of experiencing hazardous noise levels are:
- Combat engineer
- Indirect fire infantryman
- Construction engineering supervisor
- Infantry senior sergeant
- Field artillery senior sergeant
- Aircraft electrician
- Special forces weapons sergeant
- Avionics mechanic
- Air traffic control operator
- Electronic maintenance chief
Click here to find out the noise exposure level of every MOS.
Why an individual lawsuit benefits you more than joining a class action
A lot of advertising about 3M’s cases talked about joining a class action. Here’s the truth — there is no class-action lawsuit for these cases. A judge has to certify a class, and no judge has done that for these cases. Class actions benefit lawyers, not you. That’s why we file individual lawsuits on behalf of our clients, and the fallout from the damage caused by these defective earplugs is going to be different for you than for everyone else.
Although each case is unique, military personnel can recover compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Temporary or permanent disability
- Loss of your ability to work
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
The value of your claim will depend on how your hearing loss has affected your life, earning capacity, relationship with your spouse, health, and more. We hire experts who will assess your claim and calculate the dollar amount of your losses. Our responsibility to you is to get you the best result possible in the shortest amount of time.
Why you should consider VB Attorneys for your personal injury case
Who you hire as your lawyer may be the most important decision you make. It can be the difference between a small settlement and a large verdict, between a quick settlement or a lawsuit that drags on for years and years, between collecting everything to which you are legally entitled or collecting nothing at all.
Our law firm is considered one of the best law firms in the country for people injured because of a company’s wrongdoing or negligence. Mr. Beckcom and his law partner, Vuk Vujasinovic, have been involved in defective and dangerous product cases their entire careers. They have published hundreds of articles, books, news items, and other expert analysis on these types of cases. Mr. Beckcom and Mr. Vujasinovic have successfully represented hundreds of individuals in injury lawsuits against large corporations. Mr. Beckcom was the Corps Commander of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. He also comes from family of decorated military veterans, as do many members of the legal team at VB Attorneys.
On August 27th, 2023, 3M entered into a tentative agreement to pay more than $5.5 billion over five years to resolve claims from over 230,000 military service members and veterans. VB Attorneys is thrilled with the result of this case.