With armed combat comes many stressful situations the average citizen will never be exposed to in their lifetime. From bullets flying to rockets launching, one of the only ways for military service members to accurately perform their duties without distraction is to have precise sound blocking technology.
Yet some of the brave service members of the United States Military were exposed to deafening noises in combat while wearing defective earplugs.
United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company
According to a lawsuit last year, 3M, a Minnesota-based company, knowingly sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. They were used for over a decade by soldiers in armed combat between 2002 and 2016.
In 2018, the contracting company agreed to pay over $9 million to remedy the situation because 3M did not disclose the defects that decreased their effectiveness. This compromised the hearing protection they were supposed to provide.
Though a settlement may have been reached, 3M has yet to compensate any soldiers who suffered serious hearing damage, hearing loss or tinnitus from wearing the earplugs. The irreversible condition of hearing loss has a bigger effect than most people realize. Many service members now suffer from depression and anxiety due to their impacted hearing.
The device in question is called the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (sometimes referred to as CAEv2). The two-sided yellow and olive colored earplugs are designed to allow for two versions of sound blocking technology:
The yellow side was designed to allow the soldier to hear low-level sounds, such as dialogue between fellow soldiers while blocking and/or significantly reducing loud impulse sounds. They were used in open or blocked combat positions.
The olive end was used in closed or blocked combat positions and blocked sound like traditional earplugs.
Improper Earplug Sizing
The problem with the earplugs is they were too short for proper insertion in the ear canal. This means the earplugs would gradually, or subtly, loosen while inserted. Not only could this compromise the users hearing, but it could also compromise their safety and ability to focus on the stressful duties they were performing.
To lose one’s senses and never gain it back has a wide-reaching psychological effect on the mind. Many who were fighting overseas may have been exposed to damaging sound levels while bravely fighting in the following:
- War of Afghanistan
- The Iraq War
- War in North-West Pakistan (part of War on Terror)
- War in Somalia
- Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
- American-led intervention in Libya (2011- part of Libyan Crisis)
- American-led intervention in Iraq (2014 – 2017)
- American-led Intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
- Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
- American Intervention in Libya (2015 to present)
In a press release from July 26, 2018, Chad Readler, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said, “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
The allegations were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, an ordinance that holds companies liable for defrauding the U.S. governmental programs. The individual(s) in the whistleblower settlement will receive $1.9 million, according to the Department of Justice.
3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware the earplugs were too short but did not remedy the situation. The U.S. alleged the company did not disclose this information when its contract with 3M was finalized.
The settlement occurred through a joint effort between the Civil Division of the DoJ, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
Do I have a 3M Earplug Hearing Loss Lawsuit?
If you wore the 3M Version 2 dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs during combat and suffered from hearing loss in any capacity, we would like to speak with you. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit. Our lawyers respond promptly to all inquiries and would be honored to speak with you.