- Alleged Design Defect & Hearing Loss
- 3M Earplugs Lawsuits
- Defective 3M Earplugs Linked to Hearing Loss
- Who Can File a 3M Lawsuit?
- Effects of Hearing Injuries on Veterans
- Deadline to File a 3M Lawsuit
- Compensation for Hearing Injuries
- Legal Challenges
- Find an Earplug Lawsuit Attorney
3M sold their Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 to every military branch from 2008 to 2015 to prevent hearing loss among service members. After many reports of tinnitus and hearing loss in military personnel and a 2016 whistleblower lawsuit, the Department of Justice settled with 3M for $9.1 million for selling the Department of Defense a product they knew wouldn’t fit all users and for failure to disclose the design flaw. The settlement didn’t require the company to admit wrongdoing.
If these defective earplugs didn’t protect your hearing, a product liability attorney with Nessler & Associates can help you get financial compensation.
Alleged Design Defect & Hearing Loss
Aearo Technologies, Inc. originally designed the 3M dual-ended combat arms earplugs in 1998, and 3M bought the company in 2008. Aearo started selling the defective product to the military in 2003 and continued after its purchase by 3M.
The CAEv2 earplugs do not fit every user due to insufficient stem length. They can shift in the ear canal, a shift so slight it’s imperceptible to the user but enough to allow for hearing damage. An Aearo Technologies employee wrote that they didn’t have any test data for their earplugs in a 1999 email to his boss after selling 2,000 units to the military.
The company then conducted tests in its lab and discovered the stem portion of the plugs didn’t extend far enough into the ear canal, allowing the flanges to shift the plug. Instead of redesigning the earplugs with a longer stem, they folded back the flanges in the test. That seemed to work, but the employee received no response when he told his boss that they should include new instructions with the earplugs.
The shifting of the plugs allows loud sounds from weapons firing, blasts, and vehicle operation to cause permanent hearing loss or impairment to armed forces members. If you suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus due to your military service, the earplug lawsuit attorneys at Nessler & Associates can help you determine if you have a case.
3M Earplugs Lawsuits
After the earplug settlement with the federal government, product liability claims flooded the 3M company. Due to a large number of individual plaintiffs and statute of limitation laws, the government decided to proceed with earplug bellwether trials.
Bellwether trials occur in consolidated mass tort multidistrict litigation (MDL) or other consolidated litigation. In MDLs, all lawsuits move to one federal district court, the Northern District of Florida in this case. After a period of consolidated discovery (the distribution of evidence to and from all parties), the judge works with attorneys on both sides to select some representative or bellwether cases.
The earplug bellwether trials will shape litigation and settlement decisions in the future. The court system uses MDLs and bellwether trials because it can’t accommodate hundreds of thousands of individual claims.
Of the bellwether trials, 3M prevailed in six jury verdicts, and the plaintiffs won the remaining ten, receiving a combined total of nearly $300 million. These trials represent the largest mass tort case in the history of the U.S.
Due to the size of the mass tort claim and the hours of testimony required for each injury claim, the federal courts decided to use earplug bellwether trials to provide a framework for future settlements.
If you’ve been injured by counting on defective combat earplugs for protection, the personal injury attorneys at Nessler & Associates offer a free consultation to discuss your claim and determine your next legal steps.
Defective 3M Earplugs Linked to Hearing Loss
The use of faulty earplugs during service overseas or at home leads to severe hearing impairment. Military service frequently exposes personnel to loud noises. Military service records can demonstrate the connection between hearing issues and service. These records can also show that the servicemember used the faulty earplugs.
Audiologists refer to the quietest sound a person can perceive as the threshold. One study explains that long-term exposure to loud noises causes a temporary increase in thresholds and may cause permanent changes in hearing.
Events causing temporary threshold shifts may still cause permanent hearing loss at specific frequencies and tinnitus. Many of these injuries would have been prevented if the 3M dual-ended military earplugs had worked.
The VA noted a steady increase in hearing-related disabilities since 1999, with a 12% increase between 2012 and 2013. The growth seems to coincide with the sale of the first units of the defective dual-ended military earplugs and increased after they became standard issue in some branches in 2003.
Who Can File a 3M Lawsuit?
Military veterans who used faulty combat earplugs during military operations or training and experienced noise-induced hearing loss can file earplug lawsuits. More than 2 million veterans had a service-related disability for tinnitus and more than 1 million for hearing loss in 2019.
The United States Army published a plan, just one example of military hearing conservation programs, to protect active-duty service members from hearing loss, including the use of combat arms earplugs. The report states that they medically evacuated one servicemember a day due to hearing-related complaints during Iraq’s first year of operations. These soldiers trusted their equipment to protect them.
If you have experienced partial hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing injuries due to dual-ended combat earplugs, seek legal representation from an earplug lawyer at Nessler & Associates.
Effects of Hearing Injuries on Veterans
Impaired hearing has devastating effects on active-duty service members. It hinders combat effectiveness, potentially putting fellow soldiers and military contractors at increased risk. Tactical and survival training and maneuvers require good hearing to stay hidden and maintain situational awareness.
Job performance, relationships, communication, health, and quality of life rely on good auditory function for service members and veterans. Ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noise in the service may necessitate a medical discharge.
Current and former military personnel who received ear damage from relying on combat arms earplugs for protection find communication more difficult. Auditory processing disorder can accompany the loss of hearing or present on its own. This condition affects the ability to distinguish between sounds or understand speech, particularly in the presence of background noise.
Combat veterans may acquire tinnitus with or without hearing loss, which is usually irreversible. These veterans may require a lifetime of medical care to manage primary and secondary symptoms, including ringing or buzzing in one or both ears, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, decreased cognitive performance, and decreased executive function.
The high cost of disability payments to hearing-impaired veterans in 2012 indicates the massive economic burden of the required treatments.
Many people who rely on defective combat earplugs for protection don’t notice any damage until it affects their communication ability. One study showed military veterans with hearing damage experience accelerated hearing loss compared to a control group after they got out of the armed services.
An earplug lawsuit attorney at Nessler & Associates can help you get compensation for your injuries and hold the company accountable for hiding the defects in design.
Deadline to File a 3M Lawsuit
Each state has different laws concerning statute of limitations for product liability cases.
However, some judges have ruled that despite the state law there may be reasons the statute of limitations may not apply, such as misrepresentation by 3M of the effectiveness of their earplugs.
A personal injury lawyer can determine if your case has merit and can help you file your military hearing loss lawsuit.
Nessler & Associates has experience helping victims of hearing loss injuries.
Compensation for Hearing Injuries
Earplug lawsuits can recover compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages. Lawyers can seek punitive damages because of the evidence that the company knew about the product defect but covered it up.
Economic damages include medical bills, hearing aids, assistive devices, lost wages, lost benefits, and reduced future earning ability.
Non-economic losses include physical pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, stress, decreased quality of communication, loss of enjoyment of music, and the loss of ability to participate in tasks and activities that require hearing.
The company’s coverup of the faulty design qualifies your legal team to seek punitive damages in earplugs litigation.
State laws may impose caps on punitive damages also.
Earplug lawsuit lawyers know how to calculate a fair settlement in these cases. The legal team at Nessler & Associates has extensive experience determining how much to seek in personal injury cases.
Filing a defective earplugs lawsuit to get financial compensation for auditory damage faces some legal challenges. 3M has demonstrated a willingness to go to great lengths to reduce its liability.
Government contractor defense
3M claims it provided a product according to Department of Defense specifications. Judge Rodgers dismissed this claim because the company completed the original design for the combat arms earplugs long before they got the military contract. The judge also held that the Army didn’t approve precise specifications.
Changing the docket
Attorneys for 3M tried to decrease the number of plaintiffs by filing a motion asking the court to require all plaintiffs to move their cases from an administrative docket to an active docket.
Filing on an active docket requires $402 per individual plaintiff. Defense counsel hoped that would force some plaintiffs out of the MDL and prevent potential plaintiffs from pursuing legal action. This move irritated the judge, who said the process was already underway.
Claims the earplugs work with proper instruction
Lawyers for 3M claim the military instructed them not to include instructions for the proper insertion of the earplugs.
The 3M company has announced plans to appeal every verdict against them. They claim Judge Rodgers mistakenly brushed aside their government contractor defense.
Find an Earplug Lawsuit Attorney
The law firm of Nessler & Associates has represented victims of corporate greed for more than 35 years. We will fight aggressively to hold the earplug manufacturer responsible for the design defect that led to your earplug injuries.
We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless we win. We want to get you a fair settlement or jury award for the irreversible damage from ear injuries you sustained from using inadequate noise protection.
Our personal injury attorneys have won millions of dollars for clients in civil lawsuits. Earplug plaintiffs deserve the same level of compassionate professional service we provide to all our clients while we fight your legal claim.
Current and former United States military members who experienced damaging noise while using the combat arms earplugs can call an earplug lawsuit attorney at Nessler & Associates at (800) 727-8010 for a free consultation.