Military personnel have given years of their lives in service to our country. To come away after their term of duty is finished with hearing loss, due to defective equipment that the U.S. military provided to them, is an unnecessary and unacceptable sacrifice.
Unfortunately, 3M Company and its subsidiary, Aearo Technologies, Inc., provided earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing product defects. We now know that these companies were aware of these failures while under contract with the military, knowledge that has allowed such products liability cases to move forward.
The damage that results from defective earplugs
Although earplugs do not require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the FDA considers them to be medical devices. Aearo and 3M had an exclusive military contract to supply earplugs to thousands of servicemen and women between 2003 and 2015.
3M was aware of inherent design flaws due to the product’s failure to pass numerous safety tests before the earplugs became standard issue. The U.S. military issued 3M earplugs to soldiers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines throughout this period.
The earplugs were supposed to protect the user’s eardrums from loud noises such as explosions, aircraft sounds and gunfire while also providing hearing in a normal range. According to recent reports, nearly 300,000 veterans and military personnel are currently involved in lawsuits alleging that the earplugs did not function as promised, because they:
- were not long enough to insert properly in the ears.
- would loosen during use and become ineffective.
Military veterans have suffered from hearing loss, tinnitus and other serious health problems as a result. Some of these personnel were reserves who remained stateside but were involved in training drills, while many are combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq military tours.
Recent product defect litigation against 3M and Aearo
With so many injured service members and civilians filing claims against 3M and Aearo, this litigation has become one of the largest mass torts in the history of this country. An initial 2018 whistle-blower lawsuit found 3M liable for selling defective earplugs in violation of the False Claims Act, while a recent decision in federal court has awarded both compensatory and punitive damages to two U.S. Army veterans who are experiencing disabling tinnitus and hearing loss.
While this result may be uplifting for many service members and veterans living in Texas and around the country who are considering filing a lawsuit, success in these cases is not a foregone conclusion. Before filing a claim, it is important to have experienced legal advocacy in this area of law to strengthen your case and maximize your chances for just compensation.