More than 640 injury lawsuits citing 3M military earplugs as the cause of action have been assigned to a U.S. district court in Pensacola, Florida. The cases are part of multidistrict litigation (MDL) against Minnesota-based 3M, which allegedly manufactured and sold a product to the Department of Defense (DOD) it knew to be defective. U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers will oversee the cases.
These cases are filed in the wake of 3M’s agreement to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.
The settlement resolved claims that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and could loosen the earplugs imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military. The allegations resolved by the settlement were brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.
The individual suits concern similar allegations that 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs were defective, causing military members to develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The dual-ended earplugs, which can be used traditionally or flipped into another position to dampen explosion sounds while still letting in quieter noises, could allegedly loosen and lose their seal.
The case is In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2885, before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
Military personnel diagnosed with hearing loss, tinnitus, or loss of balance after using standard-issue earplugs manufactured by 3M may file lawsuits against 3M for allegedly knowingly supplying the defective earplugs to service members. For more information, contact Rhon Jones. He and other attorneys in Beasley Allen Law Firm’s Toxic Torts Section are investigating injury claims related to the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs.