Veterans 3M Earplug Hearing Loss Lawsuits
Diligently Seeking the Fullest Recovery for Former & Current Military Members Harmed by Defective 3M Earplugs
The brave men and women who serve our country as members of the military face many potential physical challenges and perils, but harm caused by faulty safety equipment should not be among these risks. However, a massive $9.1 million dollar settlement between the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and 3M, as well as its predecessor Aearo Technologies, Inc. (Aearo), arose from a qui tam lawsuit that alleged the companies fraudulently claimed their earplugs met specific safety specifications, which led to members of the armed services suffering hearing loss and long-term tinnitus. The earplugs were originally designed by Aearo, which was acquired by 3M. 3M also hired the employees of Aearo who developed and tested the defective earplugs.
Parker-Waichman represents clients who feel they have had the quality of their lives diminished by the conduct of 3M in falsifying testing results and misrepresenting the safety of their Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2). Our attorneys felt the fraud that led to impaired hearing and tinnitus experienced by many of our military service people constituted an egregious injustice. Our clients have found a sense of vindication and comfort by retaining our law firm to seek compensation for their adversely affected hearing.
What Are 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs?
The defective CAEv2 earplugs were designed and manufactured for use by the military to protect the hearing of our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan from hearing loss during the period of 2003 to 2015. 3M represented the earplugs as being dual-ended, so soldiers could flip the devices for more protection around gunfire or explosions.
The hearing safety equipment was designed to offer those in the armed forced with a single set of earplugs that offered two options for hearing attenuation depending on how they were worn. When worn in the “closed” or “blocked” mode (the olive end of the ear phones), the plugs blocked sound in the fashion of conventional earplugs. When flipped to the yellow end, which is the “open” or “unblocked” position, the ear protection was supposed to significantly reduce or block intense impulse sounds on the battlefield without obstructing quieter noises like approaching combatants or spoken words from fellow soldiers. The goal of the earplugs was to allow users to hear low-level sounds that were essential to mission safety while providing attenuation of high-level noises like explosions and gunshots.
Why Did the Faulty Earplugs Fail?
The complaint filed in the qui tam false claims act action that recently settled for 9.1 million dollars against 3M and Aearo alleged that the companies knew the CAEv2 earplugs were not long enough to permit adequate insertion into certain soldiers’ ears. This faulty design prevented the earplugs from maintaining a tight fit. The earplugs would subtlely dislodge, so the military users were unaware that they had little or no protection. Since the stem is so short, the plugs can be difficult to plug deeply into the ear canal for some users, which causes a poor fit. When the plugs are worn in the manner indicated by the manufacturer, the basal edge of the third flange of the non-inserted end of the earplug can be prone to push against some users’ ear canals and to fold back to its original shape. When this happens, the plug loosens its seal with the ear. Because this issue exists with both ends of the ear plug, the lack of a tight seal can expose users to high intensity noise that bypasses the plug entirely.
According to the qui tam complaint, Aearo knew of the defect at least as early as 2000, which significantly predates the contract with the U.S. military to serve as the exclusive provider of selective attenuation earplugs to the armed forces. Despite knowledge of the defect, the company and its successor 3M neglected to inform the Department of Defense that its earplugs did not meet the minimum government standards.
Qui Tam Action Asserts Fraud by 3M/Aearo
The government’s qui tam complaint also contended that 3M might have manipulated test results to deceive the government into believing the earplugs complied with mandatory government specifications. According to the complaint, personnel of Aearo rolled back the non-inserted yellow flanges to minimize the extent the plugs became loose during a retest of the closed end of the plugs in 2000. Further, the lab technicians that tested the earplugs and the scientists who supervised and documented the testing are still employed by 3M.
Although Aearo had an express obligation to certify that their earplugs met Salient Characteristics of Medical Procurement Item Description of Solicitation No. SP0200-06-R-4202 to submit a bid, the ear buds failed to comply with these standards. The company was allegedly aware of this failure to meet the applicable standards prior to the time they submitted their bid.
Injuries Caused to Members of the Armed Services by the Defective Attentuation Ear Plugs
The defectively designed earplugs created the potential for high sound levels that could lead to permanent and severe harm, including partial or total hearing loss, buzzing or ringing in the ears, or tinnitus. Hearing loss and tinnitus constitute the most common form of service-connected disability among U.S. veterans. The harm suffered has a dramatic impact on the lives of veterans because there is no cure for tinnitus.
The scope of the harm caused by the alleged misrepresentations of 3M and Aearo is reflected in the fact that 933,333 veterans received disability benefits for hearing impairment and 1.3 million received disability compensation for tinnitus in 2014. Further, James Henry with the VA Portland Healthcare System has indicated that more than 1.6 million veterans are seeking medical care for severe, ongoing tinnitus, which poses challenges for veterans because the condition is difficult to diagnose. The DOJ lawsuit alleges that the fraud used to induce the government to purchase and dispense the earplugs, which were standard issue in certain branches of the military, caused thousands of soldiers to experience hearing impairment or ringing and buzzing in their ears while creating a risk to millions of other military servicemen and women.
Why Veterans Need an Attorney to File a Hearing Loss/Tinnitus Claim
Although the qui tam lawsuit brought by the DOJ against 3M and Aearo led to a large $9.1 million settlement, this compensation reimburses the government for the fraudulently obtained public funds paid to the companies. If a veteran whose hearing has been compromised wants to obtain compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and other legally applicable damages, a civil lawsuit must be pursued by the injured party.
This lawsuit can be filed without legal assistance, but significant reasons exist to retain experienced and proven legal counsel:
- The defendants in these lawsuits are large corporations with extensive litigation resources to defend the claim.
- The evidence involves complex analysis of scientific data and information related to sound attenuation, scientific testing of the earplugs, and other complex factual issues.
- Success in the lawsuit requires consulting with and retaining appropriate expert witnesses.
- The legal issues in the lawsuit will involve complex legal issues in the practice area of product liability.
- An optimal outcome requires mastery of the rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, court rules, and relevant substantive law.
Parker Waichman LLP – Nationally Recognized Trial Lawyers
Our defective product attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have garnered a national reputation for excellence as evidenced by numerous prestigious awards and honors that include:
- Receipt of the Highest “Preeminent AV Rating” Based on Peer Review by Martindale-Hubbell
- Inclusion in U.S. News and World Report as a “Best Law Firm” in the United States
- Awarded a Nearly Perfect 9.8 Rating by AVVO (Based on a 10.0 Scale)
- Given Elite “5 Dragon Rating” by Law Dragon
Our products liability lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP share a passionate commitment to compensating victims of faulty products and holding corporations that put profits above consumer safety accountable for their actions. We bring the benefits of experience, legal expertise, effective negotiation, and tenacious advocacy. While veterans who have experienced impaired hearing or tinnitus because of fault earplugs designed and manufactured by 3M or Aearo might have a right to file a lawsuit for compensation, this right is subject to strict timing requirements. Time is of the essence in protecting your legal rights. Parker Waichman LLP welcomes the opportunity to answer your questions and evaluate your legal claim. Call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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