Design Flaws of 3M Earplugs
Veterans of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force wore 3M earplugs starting in 2003 to 2015 during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These earplugs were designed and sold with the promise that the service members wearing them would be protected from loud battlefield noises like gunfire and explosions than can cause hearing damage. In July of 2108, a 3M Earplug Lawsuit brought the plaintiffs a settlement of 9.1 million dollars because these earplugs were defective and 3M Company sold them knowing that the defect existed. However, this settlement did not stop other lawsuits from being filed.
The company originating the design claimed that the dual earplug concept would better protect the soldiers exposed to loud noises while still being able to hear verbal commands on the battlefield. One end, the yellow end, could be inserted to block out loud noises while enabling the soldier to hear the commands and the sounds of approaching vehicles. The other end, the olive-green end, when inserted in the ear would block out all sound to 0.0 decibels and was for those soldiers in artillery, and tank warfare.
The Design Flaws
The 3M Earplug was designed by Aearo Technologies and was first issued to the military in 2003. 3M later bought the Aearo Company in 2008. As early as 2000, Aearo Company knew of the defects in the product, but they failed to notify the military. In 2106 a Moldex-Metric, Inc., whistleblower lawsuit claimed that the earplugs were defective, and they also indicated fraud on the part of Aearo Company and the 3M Company that incurred product liability.
The earplugs were designed with two distinct uses in mind for the military. The yellow end of the earplug would block only loud noises while the olive-green end would block all noises. The earplugs were a rounded and triangular shape with overlapping segments. When inserted into the ear, the smaller end of the rounded triangle would penetrate deep into the ear and block all noise entering the ear. The defect was that the overlapping segments, made of soft plastic, would tend to loosen their position within the ear canal causing the seal to break and allow noise to enter through the broken seal.
The second cause of malfunction was that the yellow end of the earplug was not long enough, and because of the length it also would loosen during normal activity and allow loud noises to affect the eardrum. These two major defects in the design even made it difficult to evaluate whether the earplug was correctly inserted and there was no way of seeing that it might be loosened.
To further expand the failure of the 3M Company, even though they knew of the defects in the design they failed to plan a program to instruct the soldiers how they should use the earplugs to work more effectively. This action could have prevented some of the injuries to the wearers who were unsure whether or not their earplugs were even placed properly.
Unfortunately, hearing loss and tinnitus, ringing in the ears, is one of the most-common disabilities faced by men and women serving in the military. By 2017, there were over 1.16 million payouts for hearing loss, and over 1.79 million servicemen and women who received compensation for tinnitus. The 3M Earplug Lawsuit has shown that military personnel were the victims of poor earplug design and company fraud. The 3M Company did not admit to wrongdoing while still paying the initial settlement. The Department of Justice said in relation to the 3M lawsuit that they are “committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct.”
The Aearo Company and the 3M Company were found to be negligent in 2018 for the faulty design and eventual coverup of the defects in the design of the 3M Earplug used by the military from 2003-2015. If you have a hearing loss and served in the military during these years, you should contact the Law Offices of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to file a claim. We have a great deal of experience and success in winning compensation for victims. Contact us at Cochranlaw.com or call us at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-779-7331) for a free consultation.