Defective Military Earplugs Lawsuit For Service Members
A federal jury in Florida found in April that 3M should pay $7.1 million to military veterans who allegedly developed hearing loss from defective earplugs. The damages include punitive damages meant to punish 3M for failing to provide adequate warnings and safety instructions with the earplugs.
Earplugs are meant to block out noise and to protect the ears, which can be damaged by excessive sound at high volume. When earplugs are defective, they do not work as well as intended and can cause tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
This was the case for earplugs that were issued to soldiers in the military. The manufacturer, 3M Company, was aware that their earplugs were too short for proper insertion.
This defect caused the earplugs to loosen in the ear canal, and fail to effectively cancel out noise. This defect hampered the effectiveness of the earplugs and put many service members at risk for developing tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
Nadrich & Cohen is currently filing lawsuits against 3M on behalf of U.S. service members who served between 2003 and 2015 and have since been diagnosed with tinnitus or hearing loss. Contact us now for a free and confidential consultation. Find out if you have a case by calling 1-800-718-4658, using the live chat feature or completing the contact form on this page.
Which Combat Ear Plugs Were Defective?
Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) featured a patented dual-end design with a yellow end and a black end. When the yellow end was inserted in the ear, the user could hear low-level sounds.
When the user flipped the earplugs around and used the black end, they would receive increased hearing protection from combat zone noise, including gunshots and explosions. The triple-flanged design was created to fit most ear canals. They defective plugs were not battery-operated and came without cords.
Who Is Being Sued?
3M, the earplug manufacturer, is the defendant in the defective earplug lawsuits being filed on behalf of U.S. service members. 3M allegedly did not disclose the defect when the contract with the U.S. government was finalized. This allegation was brought under the False Claims Act. It was believed that 3M violated this act by knowingly selling defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency.
3M even set up fraud testing to comply with the military standard. The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) have since been discontinued, but were standard issue for soldiers who were deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003-2015.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “some analysts have estimated the cost of settling the earplug litigation at $10 billion to $15 billion.”
How Many Veterans Used The Defective Earplugs?
Between 2003 and 2015, 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., supplied as many as 2.2 million earplugs to the U.S. military. During that time period, 20% of active military, or approximately 1,562,190 soldiers were deployed to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Given this information, more than 1 million soldiers could have used this product and not had their hearing adequately protected.
Rise In Reports Of Hearing Loss Among U.S. Veterans
Between 2006 and 2012, cases of hearing loss and tinnitus among veterans skyrocketed. In 2000, there were 69,813 cases of hearing loss and 162,409 cases of tinnitus reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. By 2006, the number of tinnitus cases more than doubled, to 395,324. Hearing loss cases increased six-fold, to 444,583.
Until 2013, these numbers continued to grow. By 2009, there were 639,029 tinnitus cases and 570,996 hearing loss cases. These numbers peaked in 2012, when there were 971,990 tinnitus cases and 774,384 hearing loss cases. The numbers then dropped dramatically after that. As of 2016, there were 149,429 tinnitus cases and 77,622 hearing loss cases.
3M Military Earplug Lawsuit Updates
A judge has approved use of $1 billion worth of stock to assist in funding settlement payouts regarding hundreds of thousands of claims that military veterans suffered tinnitus and permanent hearing loss after using 3M earplugs. The judge determined that it is fair and appropriate to use stock to partially fund a settlement agreement worth $6 billion.
Scammers are attempting to scam claimants who are participating in a $6 billion 3M earplug settlement which relates to claims of hearing damage. Fraudulent actors have been impersonating employees of the company assigned to administer the earplug settlement, initiating cold calls to settlement claimants, trying to get them to tell them personal information like dates of birth and social security numbers. The FBI has been notified of the scam. Those contacted by scammers are urged to notify plaintiffs’ counsel.
The following per-claimant settlement amounts have been reported regarding the 3M earplug settlement: Those with 40 db or greater hearing loss will receive $24,000, those with from 20 db to 35 db hearing loss will receive $16,000, those with 15 db hearing loss will receive $10,000, those with a recorded tinnitus diagnosis or who sought treatment for tinnitius within two years of using the earplugs will receive $10,000, and those with tinnitius without records corroborating it will receive $5,000. Those who fit multiple criteria will not receive the values of the multiple categories combined – they will receive the value of the more valuable category.
On September 23, 2023, the court issued a settlement update regarding the 3M earplugs, announcing that the process of identifying every potential claimant who may file claims in a $6 billion 3M earplug settlement is now complete. The next phase, which will begin soon, will allow plaintiffs to submit a registration form to recover compensation for tinnitus and hearing loss injuries.
As of September 18, 2023, there are 242,604 plaintiffs who have active cases in the multidistrict litigation regarding the 3M earplugs.
3M is reportedly close to agreeing to a $5.5 billion settlement to resolve over 300,000 claims that its defective earplugs caused service members to suffer from permanent hearing loss. Experts had earlier predicted that the claims could settle for $10 billion.
On July 24, 2023, the Seattle Times reported that an analyst with Barclays, Julian Mitchell, has estimated that 3M may end up owing $8 billion in liability over its earplugs.
In June 2023, a U.S. judge dismissed a bankruptcy filing by Aearo Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M. The bankruptcy filing was an attempt to resolve around 260,000 lawsuits which claim that 3M’s military earplugs causes U.S. service members and veterans to develop hearing loss. The judge ruled that Aearo had too much financial security to warrant bankruptcy protection, that the lawsuits don’t create an impending insolvency risk, and that no evidence exists that a settlement can’t be reached without bankruptcy.
In May 2023, Judge Casey Rodgers ordered the CEO of 3M, Mike Roman, to attend mediation sessions. The sessions are intended to settle lawsuits against 3M over their military earplugs, which are allegedly defective. Rodgers wrote that Roman must attend the media sessions “so that his reports to the board of directors regarding the potential for global resolution of these cases are properly informed by firsthand knowledge.” 3M faces over 200,000 lawsuits over the earplugs.
On May 2, 2023, Judge Casey Rogers ordered negotiations to be reinstated in the MDL regarding 3M earplugs. Discussions had been paused between 3M and plaintiffs in January. The negotiations had been declared at an “impasse.” Plaintiffs filed lawsuits against 3M over combat earplugs produced by 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies which allegedly caused hearing damage in thousands of veterans. 10 of the 16 bellwether trials on the docket were won by plaintiffs. Following this, 3M tried multiple times to claim bankruptcy, unsuccessfully. 13 plaintiffs have been awarded $265 million in damages. Over 2,500 more claims are awaiting settlement.
In April 2023, a Florida judge was asked by veterans to reinstate mediation with 3M regarding litigation over claims that 3M’s earplugs had a defect and gave service members tinnitus and hearing loss. The veterans said their lawyers’ leadership recently requested a global deal regarding the lawsuits.
In March 2023, Judge Casey Rodgers, who is overseeing the 3M earplugs multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Florida, referred to the methods 3M used to test their earplugs as “problematic.” Judge Rodgers noted that 3M’s testing excluded the frequencies of 4,000 and 6,000 Hz, the frequencies that noise most commonly affects, and included the frequencies of 500 and 1,000 Hz, frequencies which are not commonly affected by noise.
In February 2023, a group representing over 200,000 combat veterans filed a motion to dismiss a bankruptcy filing by 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies. The motion argued that 3M is not in financial distress and that Aearo can access 3M funding, making the bankruptcy filing invalid.
In January 2023, Judge Casey Rodgers declared negotiations over a settlement in the 3M earplugs MDL at an impasse, terminating further talks which were ordered by the court. This was seen as an indication that bankruptcy, the MDL and numerous appeals would proceed.
In January 2023, it was reported that 3M has been spending around $4.7 million per week in connection with litigation over its earplugs, and that the litigation might eventually cost the company up to $7 billion.
In December 2022, Judge Casey Rodgers barred 3M from claiming it can’t be held independently responsible for earplugs designed by its subsidiary Aearo Technologies. Rodgers referred to this strategy as “a brazen abuse of the litigation process.”
How Do I Make A Claim?
If you used the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) and have now been diagnosed with tinnitus or hearing loss, contact the defective product attorneys at Nadrich & Cohen now for a free and confidential consultation. We collect no fees for our services unless or until a recovery is made.
3M should be held accountable for supplying defective ear plugs to America’s heroes serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you served as a U.S. soldier between 2003 and 2015, were issued earplugs during military service and now suffer tinnitus and/or hearing loss, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact the defective product legal team at Nadrich & Cohen Accident Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation by calling 1-800-718-4658. We represent service members throughout the country. Don’t wait as there are strict time limitations in which to make a claim. Call us now.