In July of 2018, the manufacturing company 3M settled a $9.1 million lawsuit with the Department of Justice after being found to have knowingly supplied defective earplugs to the United States Air Force, Navy, and Army. These earplugs were standard issue in the military from 2003 all the way through 2015, when veterans were then on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The purported innovative dual-ended design of the Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (CAEv2) were supposed to protect servicemembers’ ears from hearing loss and other potential hearing-related damages while they were in close proximity to gunshots, explosions, helicopters and aircrafts, and other loud noises associated with deployment.
However, it was not until after many of these veterans came home that they started to notice the negative effects of this defective product. It was discovered that the primary issue with the CAEv2 earplugs was that they were not long enough to effectively block the ear canal from being affected by loud noises. Therefore, when military personnel would wear these ear buds on active duty, they would inevitably loosen, resulting in a lack of protection.
The History of Hearing Damage in Veterans and Active Duty Soldiers
This type of damage is unfortunately common—since 2005, debilitating hearing loss and tinnitus has been the number one service-related disability among veterans. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 2.7 million veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for hearing loss and tinnitus.
The dual-ended design of these earplugs was originally created by Aero Technologies and was acquired by 3M in 2008. Aero had originally become aware of this defect in their earplug as early as the year 2000 after conducting initial testing on the product.
However, in order to comply with military standards, the company decided to falsify these results in order to sell its product. It is estimated that 3M supplied the military with nearly 15,000 earplug packages, with 50 pairs in each package, over the course of its contract until 2015 when the company finally discontinued the product.
Are Military Members Entitled to Compensation?
Because of their unique and specific nature, these lawsuits can be difficult to navigate unless you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. If you or loved one was in the military and has suffered injury from defective earplugs manufactured by 3M, consider contacting a compassionate and seasoned attorney at Emerson Straw for a consultation.