Combat earplugs are supposed to minimize the effects of dangerously loud conditions while allowing military personnel to communicate effectively. To perform this function in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Logistics Agency purchased Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 from 3M. However, many service members who used these earplugs did experience hearing problems during and after battle. Some of these victims are alleging that 3M’s design was unsafe and lacked a proper seal, meaning that the ears of wearers were exposed to loud sounds without their knowledge.
According to lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, 3M might have known about the product defect even before they started selling them to the government. Now, hundreds of soldiers are alleging gross negligence and seeking damages from the large manufacturer. If you or a family member served during Middle East combat and suffered hearing trouble, there are some things you should know:
- Dates of use — Despite the problems, the defective combat earplugs were used for more than a decade. A service member who served in Afghanistan or Iraq between 2003 and 2015 might be eligible for relief.
- Possible effects — Anyone who’s been in combat knows how important earplugs are. For many, the defect caused serious and even permanent harm. Conditions associated with these defective products include hearing loss, tinnitus (persistent “ringing” in the ears) and ruptured eardrums.
- Settlement with Defense Department — In a settlement agreement with the Department of Defense, 3M paid $9.1 million after the government alleged that the company knew about the earplugs’ defect but did not warn the military about it. This money was paid to the Defense Department and not to the service members who were harmed.
The prevalence of these dual-ended combat earplugs means that many more potential plaintiffs probably exist. If you know of someone who might have been affected, Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban represents veterans and active duty service members in claims arising from unsafe combat earplugs and other defective products used by the military. Please call 866-866-VETS or contact us online to make an appointment for a free initial consultation. Our offices are in the Carolinas and Virginia.