June 2, 2019

3M Earplug Lawsuit Update

If you’ve been paying attention to the veteran community lately, you may know that in February of 2019, hundreds of veterans started filing product liability lawsuits against a government contractor who sold the United States military defective combat earplugs. In this 3M earplug lawsuit, the plaintiffs are alleging that these defective earplugs did not maintain a tight enough seal to protect the ear canal from the loud noises of combat, and therefore dangerously loud noises could slip through without the knowledge of the military member wearing the earplugs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have reported that for some servicemen, the extent of the hearing damage to the user’s ears was severe. The design flaw caused many wearers to suffer permanent hearing loss.

Background

These private and class action lawsuits by former military personnel are aimed at the 3M Company, which is based in Minnesota. They state that not only did 3M design the ear protection in a defective manner, but also failed to provide users or buyers with any information about the defect or provide any additional instructions for its use.

Veterans are claiming the failure of these standard-issue earplugs resulted in loss of balance, hearing loss, and tinnitus in many who used the dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs as members of the U.S. military, many who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 to 2015.

Initial lawsuits

The initial personal injury lawsuits, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas — Waco Division, were filed by two Houston-based law firms. When filing them, the law firms noted that these suits were just the tip of the iceberg of veterans who will come forward with similar accusations.

According to the the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ), 3M already paid $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it had knowingly sold its combat earplugs with design defects to the Defense Logistics Agency without the disclosure of flaw that decreased the amount of hearing protection they provided. However, that case, brought by the U.S. Government, did not discuss the matter of liability, which is why these new cases are being filed.

JPML hearing

On March 28, 2019, a hearing was held regarding the 3M earplug lawsuits. This hearing was held before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, or the JPML, in Washington, D.C. The job of the JPML is to consolidate cases where many people in multiple districts have brought the same complaint against a particular defendant. The JPML also determines in which state the trial will be held, which can cause some controversy.

This controversy stems from the fact that multiple states would like to be chosen to host the trial. These states include Texas, where the first suits were filed, Georgia, Louisiana, and Minnesota, where the 3M Company’s headquarters is located. There are currently more than 200 lawsuits filed against 3M now accusing them of negligence in letting their consumers know about the defective earplugs.

Updates in the case

The JPML has decided that the suit will be brought to trial in a district court in Pensacola, Florida. Judge M. Casey Rodgers will preside over the trial; the JPML specifically picked him because of his experience in the past dealing with other multi-district litigation cases.

There are now over 640 plaintiffs in this case, and injury lawyers in Michigan and across the country are predicting that this number could eventually reach the ballpark of tens or possibly hundreds of thousands. Many service members have been affected by this defective product, and when more hearing loss, loss of balance, or tinnitus develops among those military service personnel who served more recently, even more plaintiffs will emerge.

How to file a military hearing loss lawsuit

If you are or were a member of the United States military who served in combat between 2003 and 2015, and you believe defective combat earplugs could have caused any hearing loss, loss of balance or tinnitus you may be experiencing, you may be able to file a military hearing loss lawsuit under the False Claims Act, or the FCA.

Filing a suit with an injury lawyer will not cure any injuries or disorders that may have developed from using these faulty products, of course, but the ability to collect some form of compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other related costs can be of some comfort.

If you or a loved one are experiencing tinnitus, hearing or balance problems due to defective 3M earplugs, please call us today for a free case evaluation on our hotline number at 1-866-MICH LAW (18663086261) for a no obligation consultation.

Tim is a writer and editor who earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland and calls Washington, D.C., home after spending most of his adult life in the country’s capital. Although Tim spent most of his post-college years in the restaurant industry, he became interested in writing about legal matters after he recently moved to Colombia.Today, Tim writes professionally about medical malpractice, drug policies, and workplace injuries. Tim is focused on curating his freelancing career and plans to work remotely for as long he can.

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