Military personnel frequently experience significant hearing damage and loss, including tinnitus, due to explosive sounds in combat. They are routinely given special earplugs to help protect their hearing from loud noises that result from explosions and gunfire. However, hundreds of thousands of veterans have reported hearing damage when using Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) by 3M Company, which are specially designed for protection in military situations. Nearly 250,000 lawsuits are pending against 3M in the federal court system.
3M Agrees to Settlement with U.S. Government
In 2018, the Department of Justice announced that 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million in response to claims that it sold its Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States military without revealing that the devices were defective and did not adequately protect users from hearing damage. This settlement resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by marketing and selling its earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. According to the complaint, 3M, and its predecessor company Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the earplug was not designed for proper insertion into the ears. This causes the earplug to loosen and fail to stay securely in the ear, reducing the protection offered to the user.
Recent Awards and Settlements Against 3M
Soldiers who have been injured in battle due to defective 3M earplugs have filed product liability cases that have been consolidated in the largest multidistrict litigation in the United States. Many of the lawsuits claim that 3M knowingly concealed flaws in its design, failed to instruct users on proper usage, and were deceptive in reporting data related to the safety and efficacy of its earplugs. In December, 2021, an Army veteran named Theodore Finley was awarded $22.5 million in a lawsuit against 3M after alleging that the 3M military earplugs he was given caused significant damage to his hearing. The plaintiff claimed that he experienced hearing loss and bilateral tinnitus. The jury found that 3M acted fraudulently, was negligent for distributing a defective product, and was liable for damages to the plaintiff.
Federal Jury awards $110 Million Verdict to 3M Earplugs Plaintiff
In February 2022, a federal jury in Pensacola, Florida awarded $110 million in damages to two plaintiffs, William Wayman and Ronald Sloan, who served in the Army for over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plaintiffs alleged that they suffered irreversible hearing damage as a result of defective 3M earplugs that claimed to protect soldiers in combat. This decision was rendered in one of 11 bellwether trials being conducted with respect to 3M earplugs. Of these 11 trials, plaintiffs were victorious in six of the trials. To date, $110 million is the largest award against 3M in the defective earplug litigation. Each plaintiff was awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages. The largest individual verdict in litigation prior to the $110 million verdict was $22.5 million. 3M plans to appeal the $110 million verdict.