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3M reaches $9M settlement with DOJ over sale of allegedly defective US Military earplugs

Posted December 23, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, are intended to offer the wearer two levels of auditory protection. They are meant to block loud noises that come from aircraft, bombs, explosions, and gunshots. (3M Company)

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

Military personnel employ gear such as bullet-proof vests, helmets and even earplugs to protect themselves. Earplugs may seem insignificant when you consider all the things that a veteran must shield themselves from, but the sounds of war can be incredibly loud and harmful.

This is why military personnel use earplugs to mitigate the potential of auditory damage. However, service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan who exclusively used the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs have reported hearing injuries.

The earplugs, which were manufactured by Aearo Technologies but later acquired by 3M, have proven to be defective.

The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs have been found to allow damaging sounds to enter the ear canal. As a result, many of the nation's heroes who used these earplugs have suffered permanent damage, including tinnitus (the perception of noise ringing in the ears) and hearing loss.

Whitley Law Firm : Spotlight : Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Defect

The United States government alleges 3M and its predecessor knew of the deficiency but did not disclose this information to the military when the contract was signed with the Defense Logistics Agency.

"Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department's Civil Division in a press release.

Last year, 3M Company reached a $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for selling these defective earplugs to the military. It is important to note that the settlement was reached over allegations, and liability was not determined or proven during the case.

"There is evidence that the company knew that the product was faulty as far back as 2000," said Whitney Butcher, an associate attorney and injury lawyer at Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "This is particularly troublesome because 3M had a government contract to provide a safe product to the men and women who serve in our military and knowingly failed to do so."

Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, are intended to offer the wearer two levels of auditory protection. They are meant to block loud noises that come from aircraft, bombs, explosions, and gunshots.

The problem was found to be with the end that was made to fit in the ear canal — it wasn't long enough. This caused the earplug to loosen imperceptibly, freeing space in the ear canal and allowing loud noises to make passage through it. These Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were worn by servicemen and women in the Army, Navy and Air Force from 2003 until 2015.

While the $9.1 million settlement attempts to resolve claims that 3M defrauded the U.S. government, service members who used the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs and suffered hearing loss or tinnitus could have grounds for individual claims against the company for their personal injuries and damages.

This goes for active military personnel and veterans who have used them recently and even those who have used them in years past.

"Although veterans who have been injured by the earplugs may have used them over a decade ago, they may still be eligible for compensation and can still file a lawsuit to claim compensation for loss, injuries, and medical bills," Butcher said. "These types of injuries are common among veterans and can be difficult to prove, however, the recent lawsuit gives servicemen and women who may have suffered as a result of [Dual-Ended] Combat Arms Earplugs a solid ground to make their case."

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.