3M Combat Arms earplugs were standard-issued to thousands of service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015. However, the manufacturer was sued by the U.S. government and competitor Moldex-Metric Inc. when defects were discovered that could cause tinnitus ringing in the ears and hearing impairment. The Veterans Benefits Administration treats over a million cases of tinnitus and hearing loss annually, which represents two of the most prevalent service-related disabilities.
What’s Wrong with the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
3M’s selective attenuation earplugs were shaped like inverted cones and designed to be worn two ways – inserted one way in situations where soldiers were conversing with one another in a loud environment, and inserted another way for greater noise protection. According to the complaint, the stem of the 3M Combat Arms earplugs was too short and did not allow the earplugs to go deep enough into the ear, causing them to loosen and allowing dangerously loud sounds to travel around the earplug.
Defective Earplugs Spark Whistleblower Complaint
Aearo Technologies, acquired by 3M in 2008, manufactured the defective Combat Arms earplugs as early as 2000. The lawsuit alleged that 3M and Aearo manipulated test results to make it appear the earplugs met government standards.
On January 10, 2019, the defective earplug makers settled with the U.S. Government and competitor Moldex-Metric Inc. (who filed in May 2016 under the False Claims Act) for $9.1 million. Moldex-Metric will receive $1.9 million as part of the settlement. Moldex-Metric had previously been involved in patent infringement lawsuits with 3M and had sued the company for false statements about previous earplug models.
Although the case settled, 3M has not admitted liability. 3M stated in a press release: “Settling the investigation into this discontinued product at this point allows the matter to no longer be a distraction to the business, and frees former and current 3M employees from having to go through the inconvenience of a protracted investigation and litigation.”
Even so, it sends an important message. “Today’s settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s fraud unit.
Showard Law Firm Represents Plaintiffs Injured by 3M Combat Arms Earplugs
Attorneys working on the case say the settlement opens the doors for individuals to file their grievances in civil court to compensate for their losses. Showard Law Firm is a personal injury firm that is unafraid to take on major manufacturers selling defective medical devices and defective drugs.
While filing a civil lawsuit cannot erase the pain you have endured, you can at least obtain financial compensation for medical expenses, ongoing treatment, lost income, emotional pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment in life. All too often, payment from the VA and disability insurance does not cover all the expenses a hearing loss disability incurs including digital hearing aids, hospital stays, medications, doctor appointments, special education, house modifications, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact us for a free consultation. You pay us nothing unless we win compensation on your behalf.