Minnesota-based 3M Company, which is the sole provider of the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) to branches of the military, paid $9.1 million to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs for use in armed combat, placing soldiers at a higher risk of developing hearing disabilities.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs Were Used in All Military Conflict from 2003-2015
3M Combat Arms earplugs were designed for use in combat to protect soldiers from hearing damage caused by loud noises from aircraft machinery, gunfire, explosions, armored vehicles and more. Featuring a two-sided design, 3M Combat Arms earplugs were intended to allow soldiers to adjust the amount of sound they were subject to depending on whether they wore their earplugs dark side in, considered the “closed position,” or yellow side in, considered the “open position.”
Hearing Injuries Are Associated with 3M Combat Arms Earplugs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that hearing problems and injuries are “by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American veterans.” In 2017 alone, there were over one million veterans collecting disability for hearing loss, and more than 1.6 million collecting disability for tinnitus. These numbers only include individuals who reported problems and does not include individuals who did not report problems or receive disability due to hearing damage.
Because hearing protection is mandatory for all military personnel, the development of 3M Combat Arms earplugs’ duel-protection design and claimed adjustability, comfortability and usability made them of interest to the U.S. military for use in combat. However, the hearing protection provided to the U.S. military by 3M is now linked to a range of hearing injuries including hearing loss, tinnitus and auditory processing disorder (APD) due to defects that decreased the effectiveness of hearing protection the earplug service offered. The U.S. Government has alleged that the 3M Combat Arms earplugs could gradually and subtly loosen in the ear until they did not provide adequate protection for certain individuals.
3M Settles Defective Earplugs Allegations for $9.1 Million
In a settlement issued in July 2018, the U.S. government alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that their duel-ended combat earplugs were too short for proper insertion yet failed to disclose known defects to the U.S. military. As a result of these allegations, brought against 3M through the False Claims Act, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million in damages. Though the case has been resolved, the company has not admitted liability.
On January 22nd, 2019, former Army Sergeant Scott D. Rowe, who deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004, sued 3M Company over the defective earplugs, which he states caused him permanent hearing loss and tinnitus as well as poor balance. The lawsuit claims that the 3M Company knowingly designed, made and sold defective Combat Arms earplugs without any warnings of the defects. Rowe is suing for an unspecified amount to cover future medical expenses, pain and suffering, physical impairment and disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of wages.
“Properly made safety equipment, for use by our soldiers,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S.
Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit, “is vital to our military’s
readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military.” In addition, Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division stated, “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
Speak with An Experienced Attorney at The Law Offices Of Peter Angelos
Active duty service members who used the defective earplugs, while risking their lives in defense of our country, now suffer lifelong hearing impairment due to the alleged wrongdoing of 3M and Aearo Technologies. We believe that it is reprehensible to knowingly place our nation’s service members at risk of permanent injury through negligence and deceit. If you or a loved one served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 and experienced hearing damage due to defective earplugs, we urge you to contact The Law Offices of Peter Angelos, as you may be entitled to pursue compensation.