3M, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, is staring at multiple lawsuits on the horizon after being accused of knowingly selling defective earplugs to the United States military between 2003 and 2015. The defects and the fraudulent representation of the earplugs’ effectiveness were first brought to national attention by a False Claims Act lawsuit filed in 2016 by another earplug manufacturer. Within the complaint, it is proposed that 3M knew its Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 were unfit for use in combat settings. The Combat Arms™ earplugs were first manufactured by Aero Technologies, which 3M purchased in 2008.
Throughout 2003 to 2015, 3M was the sole company with a government contract to sell and supply earplugs to the Armed Forces. As such, any of the 1.5 million plus infantrymen and infantrywomen during those years could be affected by the defective earplugs.
The accusation from the 2016 claim is backed by statistical evidence collected and reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to VA data, a significant rise in tinnitus and hearing loss diagnoses among active or recently-returned service members began in 2003. The diagnoses steadily increased up until late 2012 and early 2013, with an inexplicable drop in 2005.
As soon as the 3M combat earplugs were no longer the only earplugs available to military service members, the amount of tinnitus and hearing loss cases plummeted dramatically. For example, in 2012, when the 3M earplugs were the only earplugs available, there were a total of 971,000 tinnitus and 774,384 hearing loss cases among veterans. One year later, as the 3M earplugs began to phase out, those numbers dropped to 135,299 and 80,196, respectively. The evidence is strong enough to go well beyond correlation and into actual causation.
Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. and our 3M earplug injury attorneys in Kansas City are proudly assisting military service members who have been negatively affected by 3M combat earplugs. The earplugs are highly recognizable: two-sided with a rounded, conical shape, and one side being black and the other yellow. If you can recall ever using such earplugs while in military service, and you have since experienced persistent tinnitus or noticeable hearing loss, you most likely have a case.
With our guidance, we may be able to secure you fair and maximized compensation for your undue hardship caused by 3M’s willingness to sell defective earplugs to the military. We look forward to helping you and, of course, thank you for your service.