The 3M company is one of the largest corporations in the world, with operations in more than 70 countries and more than $30 billion in annual revenues. It employs about 37,000 people in the U.S., and more than 50,000 internationally. In the U.S., 3M’s principal offices are located in St. Paul, Minnesota.
While the company may be best known as the makers of Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes, 3M sells more than 55,000 items across five different business segments: Industrial, Safety, Health Care, Energy, and Consumer. 3M’s Safety division, which is one of its largest revenue producing segments, engages in the design, manufacturing, and sales of certain safety products, including hearing protection. Unfortunately, some of the ear protection manufactured by 3M allegedly caused significant noise-induced hearing loss in many members of the military due to defects associated with certain ear protection products. As a result, many members of the military have filed civil claims against 3M for their allegedly defective earplugs.
Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) by 3M
Most people are familiar with various types of soft, tapered, foam earplugs. These traditional earplugs are designed to fit in your ear one way and block sound. While 3M sells these type of inexpensive earplugs, they also designed a much more unique earplug.
Between 2003 and 2012, 3M was the exclusive provider of what is known as “selective attenuation earplugs” to the U.S. military. Unlike traditional earplugs, these types of earplugs have two-options for blocking sound depending on how they are worn. The earplugs were two-sided with one end being dark olive green and the other yellow.
The darker/olive green side was supposed to block sound like traditional earplugs. However, if the yellow end of the earplug was inserted, the earplug was generally supposed to block loud impulse sounds of gunfire and explosions while still allowing the soldier to hear quieter sounds such as communications with fellow soldiers.
However, at the time 3M bid for and was awarded the military contract, it apparently was very aware that the earplugs had dangerous design defects that could permit damaging sounds to enter the soldier’s ears. Despite knowing about these defects, 3M certified the earplugs met all strict military testing standards. From 2003-2012, 3M supplied massive quantities of these defective earplugs to soldiers, many of whom wore them while serving our country in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3M Agrees to Pay $9.1M to Settle Claims
In 2016, a “False Claims” action was brought against 3M for making false representations about the safety of its Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military. In 2018, the Department of Justice announced that 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it fraudulently sold the military earplugs without disclosing defects that hampered their effectiveness. In statement regarding the settlement, Assistant Attorney General Chard Readler emphasized that “government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
Injured Soldiers Filed Civil Claims Against 3M
While the $9.1M resolves the False Claims action, it does not address or resolve the specific harm it caused to thousands of men and women in uniform who suffered noise-induced hearing damage because of the defective earplugs.
Over the course of years that 3M supplied the military with its Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, service-connected hearing injuries reached an all-time high. Thousands of men and women have been diagnosed with tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
Suits are being filed nationwide against 3M. Our firm is actively investigating cases of hearing loss and tinnitus reported by servicemembers. If you or a loved one were active in any branch of the military from 2003 to 2015 and have been diagnosed with tinnitus or hearing loss, you may have a claim against 3M.
Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC has extensive experience with defective product cases. Contact our firm today to discuss what legal options you may have. We never charge for consultations and there is never any costs or fees unless we recover for you.