American conglomerate 3M, known for manufacturing safety and other equipment for various industries, is now making headlines because of the multi-district litigation it faces in Florida. 3M has been accused of manufacturing a faulty earplug that was used by American troops for over a decade. Many soldiers who used this earplug have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus.
Why is Florida at the Center?
A 2019 study, by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs from Brown University, showed that Florida has the 3rd greatest number of members of the military serving in post 9/11 wars out of all the states, reaching a 30%-50% higher number of members per capita than the national average. Florida also ranks 3rd in the country when it comes to the greatest number of veterans. Given the noticeable presence of active and past military personnel, it makes sense for Florida courts to be spearheading a vast number of lawsuits against 3M.
3Ms claims that it will not accept the charges of designing a faulty earplug, which is contradicted by their $9.1 million settlement with the DOJ in 2018, has not stopped lawyers from filing lawsuits. The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, in its 2020 fiscal year report, says that they can confirm an influx of more than 200,000 lawsuits against 3M over the design of the faulty earplug. This ranks this multidistrict litigation as the largest in recent United States history. To put this statistic into perspective, the MDL involving asbestos, which previously held this title, reached around 186,000 lawsuits. Unlike the 3M lawsuit, the asbestos lawsuit needed more than a decade to become the largest MDL; it has only taken the 3M MDL lawsuit one year.
What was 3M’s Design Debacle?
In 2007, 3M announced it was acquiring Aearo Technologies Inc., a manufacturer which sold the dual-ended earplugs between 2003 and 2015 to the U.S. military in order to provide soldiers with either total or partial protection from loud noises. The design in theory allowed soldiers to have ear protection while still having either the ability to just hear commands or completely muffle loud noises in gunfights. Initial testing showed that the end of the earplug meant for total protection was achieving a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that hovered around the NRR range for the side that allowed soldiers to hear orders, making it evident it was not blocking enough noise. Even worse, the side with less protection achieved an NRR of -2, which meant it actually amplified the noise soldiers were exposed to.
After examining these results, 3M noticed that the root of this problem was that the stem of the earplug was too short, and because the earplug was symmetrical, this affected both sides. 3M manipulated fitting procedures in order to achieve an acceptable rating on the side with total protection, yet did not re-test the side known to amplify the noise and sold the product accordingly. Not only did 3M not notify the military that one side would actually amplify noise, but it also did not explain to the military how the other side must be fitted for it to work properly. In other words, 3M seemingly sold a faulty earplug that did not adequately protect the ears of American soldiers.
If you suffer from hearing loss and/or tinnitus, served in the United States military or in the reserves between 2003 and 2015, or were a DOD contractor during the same period, and used the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug (CAEv2) during service, you may be entitled to compensation.
Our team at Oppenheim Law recognizes the emotional burden these impairments can have on individuals and their lives. That is why our firm provides a team of professionals committed to zealously represent our clients.
Please feel free to contact us at (954) 384-6114 so we can evaluate your potential legal claim and inform you of your legal rights so you may obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.
From the Trenches,
Oppenheim Law | 3M Earplug Lawsuit Attorneys
2500 Weston Rd #209
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33331