A federal jury found an American manufacturer of combat earplugs liable for hearing loss caused by its defective product. Three veterans filed a lawsuit claiming that the manufacturer knew of the design flaw and the company covered it up before supplying the earplugs to the military.
The manufacturer had a $9 million contract to provide reusable earplugs, which the U.S. army used from 2007 through 2013. As reported by MilitaryTimes.com, the company falsified its products’ certifications to win the contract. Allegedly, employees knew about the earplug’s flaw, and a whistleblower’s claim led to a multi-million-dollar settlement.
The legal action filed by the three injured veterans exposed how the manufacturer hid the earplugs’ design flaw. The jury uncovered how employees fudged testing and did not instruct the military on how to use the earplugs properly.
To penalize the manufacturer, the jury awarded each of the three veterans $2.1 million in punitive damages, according to U.S. News and World Report. The veterans also received more than $800,000 each for pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of income.
With more than 200,000 troops complaining about hearing loss, the manufacturer faces the nation’s largest mass tort lawsuit. Under tort law, a company may have strict liability for damages from a defective product or a design flaw that exposes users to physical harm. A noticeable warning label or detailed instructions must alert users on how a product could cause harm.
Defective products may cause life-altering physical, emotional and financial damages. Manufacturers owe a duty of care to produce and supply safe products. When a breach of that duty occurs, a company may face responsibility for causing preventable injuries.