Over 200,000 lawsuits across the United States have been filed in federal and state courts against 3M for hearing damage from defective 3M earplugs sold to the U.S. Government and used by the Military and Border Patrol.
$6 Billion Settlement Annouced
3M has agreed to pay $6 billion to resolve legal claims over its Combat Arms Earplug products, which military veterans claimed left them with hearing loss and tinnitus.
The settlement covers about 240,000 lawsuits filed by current and former U.S. military service members who used the earplugs in training and combat from 2003 to 2015.
The earplugs were made by Aearo Technologies, a company 3M bought in 2008. The company will pay $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in common stock over several years.
The settlement is one of the largest in U.S. history involving defective products sold to the military.
The 3M earplugs, known as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEV2), have a unique dual-ended design. The yellow-colored is supposed to allow the user to hear low-level sounds, while the green or olive-colored end does not allow any sound to pass through and is to be used when intense sounds are expected.
How Are The 3M Ear Plugs Defective?
3M marketed the earplugs to the U.S Government as having excellent Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR), a measure of the ear plug’s effectiveness in reducing noise. However, an alleged design defect allows the earplugs to loosen while implanted, which causes the user to lose sound protection.
In 2016, the U.S. Government filed a Qui Tam suit against 3M, alleging it sold the CAEV2 earplugs to the Government without disclosing this defect. Later that year, 3M settled these allegations agreeing to pay $9.1 million.
Hearing loss is a big concern for military service members, who are often exposed to loud noises during training and service overseas.
In 2003, almost 30% of veterans had tinnitus at discharge, with 15% suffering moderate to severe hearing loss.
The current numbers are even worse, with over half of all combat soldiers suffering from significant hearing loss.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB), and a person with normal hearing can hear sounds from 0 to 140 dB. Any sound more significant than 90 dB can cause discomfort, with sounds greater than 120 dB resulting in potential temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Almost all military firearms, grenades, and missiles measure over 120 decibels. A 9mm pistol registers sound at 157 dB, as does the M-16 rifle carried by most military members.
Military individuals who carry more massive weapons like the MAAWS recoilless rifle and the light antitank weapon are exposed to sounds over 182 dB. Considering these numbers, a rock concert typically measures 110 decibels, a jet engine at takeoff measures 140 decibels, and a rocket at launch measures 180 decibels.
Who Received These Defective 3M Ear Plugs?
The 3M earplugs were purchased and distributed to the U.S. Government from 2003 to 2015.
The U.S. Government then distributed these to military personnel, some federal law enforcement personnel, including the Border Patrol, and some civilian contractors.
While all military branches used the CAEV2 earplugs, they were primarily used by the Army, Marines, and National Guard. The U.S. Navy and Air Force used a different brand of earplugs due to the frequency as their personnel was exposed to tremendously damaging sounds like jet engines.
How Do I Know If I Used the CAEV2 Ear Plugs?
While the U.S. Government purchased and used other earplugs from 2003 through 2015, the CAEV2 earplug was the only dual-ended earplug used by the Government. So if you recall using a dual-ended earplug, it must be the CAEV2.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim?
If you used a dual-ended earplug from 2003 to 2015 and suffered tinnitus or hearing loss, you may have a claim for compensation.
The military performs a hearing check on all service members at the time of enlistment, when the service member leaves the military, and at various points in between. Therefore, any hearing loss should be substantiated from service records, at least in part.
How Many Ear Plug Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
Over 200,000 lawsuits were filed in various federal and state courts across the United States, most of which were filed in federal court.
The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation consolidated the claims into an MDL or Multi-District Litigation. A petition was filed to consolidate these cases on March 28, 2019, which the court subsequently granted.
If you are in the military, law enforcement, or a veteran, you used these dual-sided earplugs between 2003 and 2015 and suffered tinnitus or hearing loss; you may have a legal claim for compensation.