The next time you thank a veteran for his service, he may not be able to hear you. Beasley Allen lawyers are investigating claims related to defective combat earplugs manufactured by Minnesota-based 3M Company. The earplugs were issued to thousands of military personnel serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The earplugs also were issued for use in training exercises in the United States.
Numerous soldiers are now complaining of permanent hearing loss related to the defective ear plugs. Other soldiers have complained of tinnitus, commonly referred to as “ringing” in the ears. The dual-sided earplugs allegedly were improperly designed and manufactured, so that the earplugs did not fit snugly in the wearer’s ear canal.
Information available at press time indicates 3M was aware of this problem as early as 2000 or 2001, yet did nothing and allowed thousands of service men and women to go through training and combat without adequate ear protection. The ear plugs were standard issue from 2003 through 2015.
3M, without admitting guilt, agreed last year to pay the United States $9.1 million to settle the government’s allegations that the earplugs were defective. Beasley Allen and other firms are investigating claims for individual military personnel related to 3M’s deceptive conduct that put our nation’s best at unnecessary risk, and caused unnecessary and preventable injuries as a result.
The majority of suits have been filed in federal court in Minnesota, 3M’s home jurisdiction, although other suits have been filed in courts throughout the country. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear this matter in its March session, and will decide whether the cases should be consolidated and, if so, the appropriate forum for the cases. Matt Munson, a lawyer in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, had this to say:
It’s bad enough that the product didn’t work. But the most egregious thing is that 3M knew it didn’t work, yet allowed the product to remain on the market. I believe they saw dollar signs with the post-9/11 involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and couldn’t bring themselves to do the right thing.
This story appears in the March issue of The Jere Beasley Report. Visit the Report online to read more like this or to subscribe.