3M Military Earplugs Lawsuit
November 11, 2019 | Commercial Litigation & Class Actions
The men and women who serve in the military make many sacrifices for the sake of keeping their fellow Americans safe.
During times of war there are many dangers that these brave men and women face, and many affects that will follow them for the rest of their lives once they return home.
One side effect that most are not anticipating though is damage to their hearing or complete hearing loss. Military personnel depend on personal safety equipment to keep them safe and when these devices fail to do their job as they are intended, injury often is the result.
Such is the case involving the recent lawsuit against the manufacturers of 3M Military Earplugs.
What the Case Is Founded Upon
“Hundreds of military veterans are expected to file lawsuits against the manufacturing company 3M, claiming it knowingly sold defective earplugs.
These complaints come after the Justice Department settled a lawsuit with the company in July over allegations the company defrauded the government by selling earplugs with “dangerous design defects” to the military for “more than a decade.”
3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the government, but admitted no liability” (CBS News).
The sheet number of veterans who used 3M Earplugs and who have suffered some degree of damage to their hearing is one of the leading factors involved in this case.
While hundreds are expected to joint eh suit, it is important to remember that there are likely just as many more who are not actively seeking compensation for their hearing loss.
So, this is likely to become a very big issue and this initial payment may not be the last that we hear of the 3M suite.
Andrew Duffy is a legal expert who is representing several dozen veterans who used these earplugs. “These earplugs have a dangerous design flaw,” Duffy said.
“The goal is to send a message to 3M and other companies that … you cannot defraud the United States of America and have the consequences be the health and well-being of our military members” (CBS News).
This lawsuit is bringing to the forefront one of the big issues that has been gaining a lot of attention over the last few years- the neglect of American veterans.
These people who have given so much to protect our nation and that have sacrificed so much already are suffering and are being ignored and told to just deal with it.
And this is something that people are finally standing up against and saying no, this cannot be allowed to continue, and that is why this 3M Earplug lawsuit is such a big deal!
How the Earplugs Were Supposed to Work
Equipment used by and designed for the military go through rigorous testing and have to be certified safe and effective.
When a defect is detected or a known issue is discovered the product manufacturer is supposed to disclose this information, pull the devices, and work to correct the problems before distributing any more of that product.
The 3M Military Earplugs went through a lot of testing during development in order to develop earplugs that were suited for the highly specialized field of combat.
“The dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs are non-linear, selective attenuation earplugs. Unlike with most earplugs, Aearo designed these plugs to provide two options for sound reduction depending on how a soldier wears them.
Wearing the plug with the olive-colored end in the ear — in the “closed” or “blocked” position — blocks all sound like a traditional earplug would.
If a soldier wears the plug with the yellow end in the ear — in the “open” or “unblocked” position — the plugs block or significantly reduce loud noises such as battlefield explosions but still allow the wearer to hear spoken orders or approaching enemy combatants” (Drugwatch).
The lawsuit that is being brought against 3M claims that these earplugs have a number of dangerous design defects that lead to them not fitting properly in the wearer’s ear.
Due to this defect in design, it is difficult to insert the plug properly and it does not provide adequate protection against the noise and potentially damaging pressures that are common during combat situations.
The issue was that there were some issues with how the earplugs worked and functions and proper channels and protocols were not followed to address these issues.
Who Used the Combat Earplugs?
3M bought the parent company that was making some of the products used by our military, named Aearo, back in in 2008.
When this occurred, 3M also took over the contract of making the earplugs and continued to supply them to thousands of soldiers who were serving in the American military in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
3M continued to produce its dual-ended earplugs until mid 2015.
Combat operations, extended training periods, and more powerful noises from aircraft, vehicles and weapons systems were known to be an issue and that manufacturers were well aware that they were not properly protecting users according to a 2008 article by D. Scott McIlwain and colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health.
Military veterans who used the 3M Earplugs during this period of time have experienced hearing loss of varying degrees and it has had a powerful and devastating impact on their quality of life.
Hearing Damage in the Military
Hearing impairment, which can range from hearing loss to tinnitus, remains the number one disability among veterans, according to the Military Health System.
Noise exposure, which is a very common occurrence in the military is something personnel are exposed to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while they are in an active combat zone.
It can have profound effects on health and well-being and can last for the rest of their lives. And it extends beyond problems of hearing loss.
“Higher risks of anxiety, depression, and PTSD coupled with hearing impairment and noise-induced hearing injury (HINIHI) can have a compounded impact on [quality of life] among the military population compared to the effects on the civilian population,” researcher Hasanat Alamgir and colleagues wrote in Military Medical Research.
High intensity or impulse noise most often causes the hearing loss. A large number of service members lost their hearing because of roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan operations, according to researcher Timothy S. Wells and colleagues in Noise & Health.
Seventy-one percent of these soldiers reported loud noise exposure and 15 percent reported tinnitus, or ringing in the ears” (NCBI).
Legal Team Speak on the Matter
According to a report from the United States Department of Justice, there are many legal representatives who are speaking out in support of and in defense of the military veterans.
Many are becoming very vocal and supportive of our veterans and pushing for this suite.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division.
“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
“Through rigorous enforcement of the False Claims Act, we protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said U. S. Attorney Sherri Lydon for the District of South Carolina.
“And in this case in particular, we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.”
“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 Major Procurement Fraud Unit.
“Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military’s readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military.”
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