Hundreds of U.S. veterans are suing over earplugs they claim 3M sold to the military despite knowing they were defective.
The lawsuits state that the earplug design was defective, causing the plugs to come loose and allow dangerously loud sounds to damage the wearer’s hearing. Now veterans are suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of balance and other pain and suffering, the lawsuits claim.
3M, based in Minnesota, knew the Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs were defective as early as 2000 but continued to provide them to the military between 2003 and 2015, the lawsuits state.
A 2006 contract with the military paid 3M at least $9 million to supply 15,000 packages of 50 pairs of reusable earplugs to the military per year, the lawsuits state. The contract ended in 2015 but the product was never recalled, meaning the earplugs are likely still being used in the field.
The lawsuits claim 3M not only knew of the defective product but also falsified military certifications so it could continue to sell the product.
The company agreed last year to pay $9.1 million to resolve whistleblower allegations it sold the defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. All claims within that settlement under the False Claims Act were only allegations and there was no determination of liability, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
But now veterans are suing to seek punitive damages. The plugs – yellow on one end and olive green on the other – were too short for proper insertion into the ears and could loosen imperceptibly, making them ineffective, the lawsuits claim.
If you are a veteran, used the Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs and have experienced hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of balance and other pain and suffering, you should contact a qualified, experienced attorney who can help you with the representation you deserve.