Hundreds of veterans and service members from across the country have begun filing lawsuits against 3M Company, the well-known Minnesota manufacturer they claim is responsible for hearing loss, tinnitus, and other injuries and disabilities they suffered after using faulty earplugs. These lawsuits, which are separate from 3M’s recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, provide veterans, service members, and their families with an opportunity to recover financial compensation for their damages and future needs.
The lawsuit involves:
- 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2);
- Veterans and military members who used the 3M Combat earplugs during service or training between 2003 and 2015; and
- Vets and service members who experienced hearing loss, tinnitus (or ringing in the ears), and other injuries or conditions as a result of using the faulty earplugs.
3M Combat Earplugs & The False Claims Act: The DOJ’s Case
Lawsuits over 3M Combat earplugs began to take shape when the U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release in July 2018 about a recent settlement with 3M. According to the DOJ, the manufacturer agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it:
- Supplied the federal government (i.e. the military) with defective CAEv2 earplugs;
- Failed to disclose defects that hindered the earplugs’ effectiveness; and
- Knowingly sold earplugs that were too short to be properly inserted into a person’s ear canal, and which were prone to becoming loose without a user’s knowledge so that they did not function as adequate hearing protection for some individuals.
The settlement, while significant, was a matter of punishment for committing regulatory violations. Specifically, the DOJ went after 3M for allegedly violating the False Claims Act, a federal statute which prohibits contractors and others who bill the federal government from submitting false claims for payment. The case targeted 3M because it acquired Aero Technologies and its CAEv2 earplugs in 2008, and knew or should have known about the defects.
While the result means accountability on the part of 3M, it does not provide compensation to any victims who suffered hearing loss and other injuries as a result of using the faulty earplugs. To pursue compensation for their damages, vets and service members must file their own civil lawsuits.
Vets & Service Members with 3M Earplug Hearing Loss / Injuries: Your Rights
Since the settlement between the DOJ and 3M does not provide any viable source of compensation for injured victims or their families, vets and service members must file their own personal injury lawsuits. As civil claims, these suits invoke laws of product liability, which concern the obligations and financial responsibilities of manufacturers that produce defective products which later harm the people who used them.
If you or a loved one served in the armed forces between 2003 and 2015 (when the 3M CAEv2 earplugs were discontinued), wore the 3M Combat military-issued earplugs during training exercises, firearms training, heavy artillery training, or while serving on active duty, you may have a potential case. Victims filing these lawsuits today allege various injuries associated with the faulty earplugs, including:
- Hearing loss – Tours of service and various training exercises expose service members to numerous sources of potentially harmful noise. Because 3M Combat earplugs failed to function as adequate hearing protection for some, the result is that many veterans experienced hearing loss that impacts their ability to communicate with others and their loved ones, navigate the world around them, and maintain a sense of independence and self-reliance. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, which is permanent, victims may require routine medical monitoring, hearing aids and assistive devices, surgery or cochlear implants, and other ongoing needs.
- Tinnitus – Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by a person’s perception of ringing or noise in the ears. Often a sign of noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus can be a debilitating and restrictive condition. People with tinnitus often experience difficulties with memory, sleep, stress, concentration, and communication, which can profoundly impact their quality of life and relationships. They may also need medications, hearing aids and medical devices, therapy, and other treatments that help them cope with the condition and its consequences.
- Other Injuries – As we discuss in many of our blogs, veterans face tremendous risks when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, which can be caused by exposure to very loud and harmful noises, such as those which occur in the course of service or during training exercises, especially for heavy weapons training and artillery testing. Veterans with TBI, hearing loss, and other hearing-related injuries connected to their service may also experience various physical and emotional injuries, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Because the effects of hearing loss and other related injuries can be profound and permanent, veterans and their families have every right to seek compensation for their losses in the civil justice system. Although 3M “settled” their case with the government, they now face many lawsuits filed by victims, and will potentially be on the hook for damages those victims incurred. This can include their medical expenses, future medical needs, pain and suffering, lost wages or reduced earning ability, emotional suffering, lost companionship or consortium, and lost quality or enjoyment of life, among others.
Biren Law Group: Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys Committed to Our Nation’s Veterans
Founding Attorney Matthew F. Biren and our entire team at Biren Law Group are passionate supporters of the brave men and women who served and sacrificed for our country. In addition to being involved with organizations such as the MVAT Foundation and representing veterans with civilian personal injury cases involving special damages for service-connected issues, we also offer our support and resources to local vets, service members, and their families in need of experienced and earnest legal advice.
If you have questions about your rights and options regarding 3M Combat earplug lawsuits or any personal injury claim involving injuries or conditions related to your time in the military, contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Biren Law Group serves the Los Angeles area and residents throughout Southern California.