A federal jury awarded a U.S. Army veteran $8.2 million after finding that military-use earplugs manufactured by 3M Co. caused his hearing loss and tinnitus. 

According to Reuter’s reportage, the verdict is the largest to be levied against 3M, which is facing mass tort claims against its combat earplugs. 

In October, a Pensacola, Florida-based jury approved U.S. Army veteran Brandon Adkins’ claim against 3M. Adkins had argued that 3M’s earplugs, intended for use in combat, had a design defect which 3M did not address and failed to warn service-people about.

Adkins’ lawsuit, Reuters reports, was the fourth to move to trial. There are currently more than 259,000 separate cases pending against 3M Co. 

The Dangers of 3M Co.’s “Combat Arms” Earplugs

Between 2003 and 2015, 3M Co. and Aearo Technologies Inc. supplied the United States military with custom-made, dual-ended “Combat Arms” earplugs.

These earplugs were designed to provide different options for soldiers: when the olive-colored end is inserted into the ear, it blocks all sound. Conversely, when the yellow-colored end is inserted into the ear, the blog hampers loud noises while allowing for some audial input. 

In an effort to bring down disability rates, the United States contracted with 3M Co., which designed and supplied Combat Arms earplugs to active-duty service personnel. 

Which Veterans Received 3M Earplugs

Combat Arms earplugs were issued to servicemembers going to Iraq and Afghanistan in the early and late 2000s. 

Tinnitus and hearing loss are among the most common service-related disabilities for men and women in the armed forces. 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs were designed to reduce instances of hearing loss and tinnitus in service-people and veterans.

In 2017, more than 1 million veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss; the same year, more than 1.79 million received disability compensation for tinnitus.

Complaints By Servicemembers Against 3M “Combat Arms” Earplugs

However, some service personnel claimed that the Combat Arms earplugs contained dangerous design flaws. The plugs’ stems were, for instance, too short for some users’ ear canals. 

Similarly, the product’s design meant that it could—and often did—come loose in soldiers’ ears. This posed major problems for service-people who found themselves in unexpected combat situations.

One Army veteran recalled how his chronic tinnitus serves as a constant reminder of a traumatic I.E.D. blast in Baghdad. 

“It’s funny, you know. When it happened, I didn’t feel my leg gone,” former Staff Sergeant Ryan Kelly told The Associated Press. “What I remember was my ears ringing. It is constantly there.” “It constantly reminds me of getting hit,” he said. “I don’t want to sit there and think about getting blown up all the time. But that’s what it does.”

“It constantly reminds me of getting hit… I don’t want to sit there and think about getting blown up all the time. But that’s what it does.”

–Staff Sergeant Ryan Kelly

Injured by an I.E.D. blast in Baghdad

Earplug Litigation Against 3M Co.

In 2016, Moldex-Metric—a competitor of 3M Co.—filed a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M and Aearo, claiming the companies violated the False Claims Act. 

Specifically, Moldex-Metric said that Aearo knew as early as 2000 that its Combat Arms plugs were not big enough to fit some soldiers’ ears. 

However, 3M Co. and Aearo continued selling Combat Arms earplugs to the United States military for more than a decade—without issuing a warning, or making any critical design alterations. 

In 2018, the United States Department of Justice reached its own $9.1 million settlement with 3M Co. 

In its initial filing, the Justice Department claimed that 3M “knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.” 

The Justice Department lawsuit stated that 3M knew about defects in the earplugs and sold them to the U.S. military anyway.

Despite the multi-million-dollar settlement, 3M Co. did not admit fault. No judicial verdicts have been reached in the 3M Earplug lawsuits, but companies often do not admit fault in a settlement to try and avoid legal responsibility in any other lawsuits or claims.

Court documents revealed that 3M charged the U.S. Military $7.63 for earplugs that cost 85 cents a pair to produce.1

Continuing Litigation Against 3M Co.

After 2020, a wave of individual lawsuits were filed in courts across the country. 

All of these lawsuits alleged that 3M Co.’s Combat Arms earplugs had injured veterans. 

Over 259,000 lawsuits have been filed against the company, and have since been transferred to a multi-district litigation panel in the Northern District of Florida. According to The National Law Review, the 3M Co. MDL is “the largest example of mass tort in history.” 

Although the vast majority of lawsuits against 3M have yet to move to trial, Judge Casey Rodgers has already awarded plaintiffs millions of dollars. Between March and June 2021, Judge Rogers awarded three plaintiffs a total of $7 million. Another trial led to a jury award of $1.7 million. 

How Personal Injury Attorneys Are Helping

Some former service-people have already received disability benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs. 

However, receiving treatment does not disqualify injured veterans from seeking further recourse in court. 

The Moldex-Metric lawsuit and Justice Department action effectively demonstrated that 3M Co. had knowingly sold millions of defective products to the federal government. These defective products have made service personnel suffer years after their contracts ended. 

Even though 3M Co.’s settlement with the Department of Justice allowed it to avoid any admission of wrongdoing, hundreds of thousands of veterans have blamed the company for their hearing loss and tinnitus. 

An Austin Veterans Rights Firm That Knows What You’re Up Against

Justinian & Associates has more than a decade of experience in helping disabled veterans fight for their rights—whether against the V.A., or a company that put profits above the safety of America’s servicemembers.

If you were injured by 3M’s Earplugs, our professional team of attorneys and investigators can help you demonstrate that Combat Arms earplugs caused your hearing loss or tinnitus. You will still be able to receive your V.A. benefits, and may receive additional damages to assist in your recovery.

The Justice Department lawsuit stated that 3M “knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs…to the United States military without disclosing defects…”

If 3M knew about the dangers of its product and sold them to the U.S. military anyway, they are legally (and morally) responsible to pay for injuries caused by that deception.

By taking a stand against 3M Co., you are getting justice not just for yourself but the countless other brave men and women who have been hurt by a poorly-designed product.

3M Earplug Lawsuits Can Be Very Complex to Prove

Winning a mass tort lawsuit for injuries caused by dangerous medical devices usually involves proving that the manufacturers did not properly warn people taking it of the potential risks. 

That can include investigating medical studies, corporate publications and using testimony from experts on how the medication caused an injury. This is not easily done, particularly when drug companies show up with an army of lawyers.

But battling bullies is what Justinian & Associates does best.

We Are Warriors For The Injured

Our Austin and San Antonio mass tort lawyers have successfully represented dozens of victims injured by dangerous pharmaceuticals and other hazardous substances. That’s exactly why we were founded.

We are leaders in the field, and have extensive knowledge of those areas of law, along with the experience, the resources, experience and trained investigators to take on adversaries of any size.

All we do is fight for injured victims. Our only goal is justice for our clients, whatever that means for them. And we do not accept defeat. Unless we get you money for your injuries, you don’t pay us a dime.

The Time to Act is Now

Your rights can be lost if you wait.

There are laws that limit how much time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. They are known as statutes of limitation. They may apply to your lawsuit to recover for your 3M Earplug injuries. The countdown may already have begun. 

The legal team at Justinian and Associates has years of experience dealing with cases like 3M Combat Arms Earplugs.

The statute of limitations (how long you have to file a case) may already be counting down. Don’t let it expire!

Call, text or email us for a free consultation, with no obligation. Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates (not a “screener” or paralegal) to understand your rights.

[1] ‘We trusted that our equipment would work,’ says Army vet, as U.S. trial over 3M earplugs begins, Tom Hals, Reuters.com, Aerospace and Defense (March 29, 2021).