3M Company, the well-known Minnesota-based manufacturer recently settled with the US military over claims that 3M sold the government specially designed combat earplugs for troops on the front lines that were known to be faulty. 3M created two versions of these earplugs, the single-ended version, and the dual-ended version, and allegedly sold the dual-ended version to the government without disclosing any of the product’s defects. These defective earplugs were called the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, part of the company’s Military Combat Safety Gear line, and until they were discontinued, they were standard issue equipment materials for several branches of the armed services.
The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were designed to protect the hearing of the wearer using two primary functions; when inserted one way the wearer would be able to hear sounds at reasonable volumes, such as speech, and when inserted the opposite direction the wearer would get better noise protection from sounds such as gunfire or explosions. While this design seemed promising, it was found that the earplugs did not reach deep enough into the ear due to the stem being too short. This flaw would cause the earplug to come loose and allowed destructive sounds to enter the ear canal, potentially damaging the wearer’s hearing. Due to this defect, claims of tinnitus and hearing loss among US troops and veterans have skyrocketed.
On July 26, 2018, the Department of Justice announced that 3M company will pay $9.1 million due to allegations of selling defective military earplugs to the U.S. Military1. The 3M military earplugs lawsuit accuses the company of selling these earplugs and failing to warn the military of the potential design defects which could lead to tinnitus and hearing loss. Looking to set an example, the Department of Justice wants to make sure companies who engage in fraudulent activities, like the ones 3M was accused of, pay for the damages they’ve caused. Acting Assistant Attorney General, Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division said in a statement that, “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct…”
These Combat Arms earplugs were found not to have the ability to adequately protect the brave men and women of our military and 3M Company will pay the consequence. Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit, mentioned in a statement that, “Today’s settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed,”
The allegation connected to this settlement also includes Aearo Technologies, Inc, who was acquired by 3M in 2008. Both 3M and Aero Technologies were accused of knowing that the earplugs were too short to be fully inserted into the ear and provide insufficient protection for users. Although 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the US Government to resolve these matters, though the company has admitted no wrongdoing and accepted no liability.
The 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs were initially manufactured by Aearo Technologies, and this company was allegedly aware of the flawed design as early as the year 2000, according to the 3M lawsuit.
In May 2016, a competitor of 3M named Moldex-Metric, initiated a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act2. The False Claims Act act gives private parties with evidence of fraud against the government the ability to sue on behalf of the United States government. For their role as whistleblowers in this case, Moldex-Metric will receive $1.9 million of the $9.1 million settlement.
The 3M lawsuit also includes a complaint that 3M and Aearo Technologies manipulated the test results of the earplugs to meet the U.S. government’s required product standards. These fraudulent activities and false claims resulted in damages that 3M has to pay to the U.S. government in this settlement. These damages include the monetary damages directly associated with the cost of the earplugs and also a substantial amount of ongoing medical expenses that are associated to helping veterans who suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus affected by these defective earplugs.
Tinnitus is characterized as intermittent or continuous ringing in the ears and can vary in volume levels3. The most common disability among veterans is tinnitus because of their exposure to extremely damaging levels of sound such as gunfire, aircraft, machinery, explosions, and name just a few. 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs were supposed to provide protection from these damaging noises but were found to be severely ineffective, leaving military personnel vulnerable to tinnitus and hearing loss. Many veterans who are afflicted with tinnitus find that this health condition may cause life-altering consequences, such as difficulty concentrating and sleeping., and in most cases, the condition is permanent.
Tinnitus can cause annoying sounds in quiet surroundings that only the sufferer can hear which include4:
3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms have also caused severe hearing loss among troops and veterans. This health condition is the third most prevalent health problem for people in the U.S. and a top medical issue for military personnel5. Hearing loss can be a devastating long-term and permanent condition. Since hearing loss is often untreatable, it is essential to follow the right prevention techniques for hearing loss.
A person’s hearing may fade away gradually and as the condition worsens, a person may find it increasingly difficult to hear others clearly and may ask others to speak up. A person may also experience ringing in the ears and sensitivity to sound.
3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the US Government for brave troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet still claims no liability. By agreeing with the Department of Justice for a settlement of $9.1 million, 3M gets to resolve all allegations that they knew these military earplugs were defective. However, all of this settlement money won’t go directly towards the service members whose hearing was damaged. For troops and veterans to potentially receive compensation, they must file a lawsuit against 3M and any others involved.
If you are a U.S. Veteran or are currently enlisted in the U.S. Military and believe that any of the above symptoms related to tinnitus or hearing loss were caused by the use of the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, then contact KBA Attorneys today. You may be entitled to compensation for any hearing damage you have suffered. Our professional and experienced attorneys believe that our wounded warriors are owed compensation for any service-connected disabilities. By working with our trusted veterans disability lawyer, you will have a better chance of winning maximum benefits. Receive a free case evaluation when you talk to our team and find out how we can help you fight back.
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