Between the years of 2003 and 2015, government contractor 3M knowingly manufactured and sold defective combat earplugs to the military. The defect allegedly caused damage including tinnitus and hearing loss. Since then, hundreds of veterans have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer.
Dan Christensen and his associates have been representing the Austin-area community members who’ve experienced injury due to defective products for over a decade. After graduating from law school, Dan served as a prosecutor and defense counselor in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). Now practicing personal injury law, Dan is still passionate about protecting veterans and current service members to this day.
In July 2018, Minnesota-based company 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations of knowingly selling the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, which were defective, to the U.S. military. Beyond just selling them, the military also alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew about the defect and had tampered with testing data to hide the flaw.
The allegations were first made by a whistleblower through the False Claims Act, which protects taxpayer dollars from fraud and abuse. That individual was granted $1.9 million as a result of the lawsuit.
Now, members of the U.S. military and veterans are also suing 3M for injuries or harm they’ve endured after wearing the 3M earplugs in the line of duty. Damages include:
The original intent of the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs manufactured by 3M was to provide hearing protection to those in the line of duty and were distributed to troops that were deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, and the Indian Ocean. They were also used during training.
The earplugs consisted of two inverted cones that were connected to the bottom with a stem to serve as “selective attenuation earplugs.” This was ultimately supposed to provide the wearer with two levels of protection, working as both a traditional earplug while also allowing wearers to still hear sounds that were quieter, like someone speaking.
The issue was due to the stem connecting the two ends of the earplug, which was too short and therefore prevented them from remaining deeply enough in the ear to actually provide adequate protection. This left wearers vulnerable to damage from loud noises such as explosions and gunshots without the awareness that their ears were not, in fact, protected.
For veterans, hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities, as they’re frequently exposed to damaging levels of sound. These include, but are not limited to, gunfire, explosions, aircraft noise, and loud machinery.
Tinnitus, which is the perception of ringing or noise in the ears, is itself the symptom of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss or ear injury. While tinnitus can be improved with treatment, it can’t be cured.
Symptoms of tinnitus involve hearing phantom noises such as:
Hearing these phantom noises can cause other complications, including difficulty sleeping, fatigue, memory problems, and depression, among others.
Hearing loss, which refers to hearing noises to a lesser degree than normal, is also a symptom of other conditions, such as aging or injury to the ear. Most types of hearing loss can’t be reversed.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
Muffling of speech and other sounds
Difficulty hearing consonants
Trouble making out works that people are saying
These symptoms can result in depression, as hearing loss can have a significant impact on your quality of life, making it difficult to have conversations and experiencing feelings of isolation.
If you suffer from tinnitus or hearing loss after having used 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs while serving in the military, you might be able to sue. Speak with attorney Dan Christensen, who not only has years of experience handling product liability, but also makes it his mission to protect veterans and current service members, for guidance on how to proceed with your case.