Veterans Sue for Hearing Loss Over Defective Military Earplugs
Earplugs may not seem like a big deal. However, when you are close to guns and explosives in a war zone or at a firing range, they become extremely important.
As attorneys who represent an area with a large military population, we are alarmed to hear defective earplugs failed service personnel.
Hundreds of military veterans are filing lawsuits against a government contractor that manufactured and sold defective combat earplugs to the military.
The earplugs failed to maintain a tight seal and allowed dangerously loud noises to reach the wearers’ ears.
The lawsuit accused the Minnesota-based 3M Company of selling defective earplugs. The litigation claims the company failed to warn users of the defect and did not even give users proper instructions on how the earplugs should be fitted, the Military Times reports.
Veterans claim this failure led to a range of health issues including loss of hearing, tinnitus, and balance issues. The lawsuits are brought against 3M’s trademarked, Combat Arms earplugs that were routinely used in military service from 2003 to 2015.
Lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Many more claims are likely to be forthcoming. The U.S. government entered into a contract with 3M in 2006. The Minnesota company supplied as many as 15,000 earplug packages every year. Each package contained 50 pairs of earplugs.
The lawsuit claimed 3M made as much as $9 million annually from its lucrative earplug contract.
The lawsuits state the company boasted its Combat Arms earplugs would allow users to hear commands from friendly soldiers and the enemy as if they had nothing in their ears.
The claim against 3M alleges the company knew its earplugs were defective as long ago as 2000. The lawsuit goes further to claim that 3M falsified certification when it stated testing complied with military standards.
Veterans who suffered hearing problems say the earplugs have an inherent design problem. The portion intended to fit inside the ear canal was not long enough. The earplugs would loosen without the wearer noticing and loud sounds would enter the ears of troops.
Constant exposure to such noises can cause tinnitus and irreversible hearing loss. A large number of veterans claim they suffered from these problems. The scale of this problem is likely to be larger than many people realize.
The Baltimore Sun reported a case against 3M was filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by Joshua M. Keiner, an Army combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq.
Keiner said in his suit that he used the earplugs extensively. He suffered from tinnitus as well as other damages that caused a loss of wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering.
The company has not commented on specific lawsuits. It has released the following statement, according to the Sun.
“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world,” We have a long history of serving the U.S. military, and we continue to sell products, including safety products, to help our troops and support their missions. We are not commenting on specific litigation matters at this time.”
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that 3M Corp. agreed to pay $9.1 million as a settlement of a whistleblower False Claims Act lawsuit. The litigation accused 3M of knowingly selling defective earplugs to the U.S. military.
At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we file product liability lawsuits against the makers of defective and dangerous products when products harm users. If you or a family member has been harmed by defective earplugs, please contact our Virginia injury team at (757) 231-6443.
To find out more about 3M injury claims, view our infographic.