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American conglomerate 3M, known for manufacturing safety and other equipment for various industries, is facing multi-district litigation in Florida over the sale of faulty dual-ended combat arms earplugs for soldiers. Last month, a jury trial hit 3M with a multimillion-dollar verdict after finding 3M liable for the hearing loss and tinnitus suffered by the three members of the armed forces.

3M Under Fire

The 3M multidistrict litigation now eclipses even asbestos as the largest mass tort litigation in the United States with 230,000 plaintiffs. In order to handle so many plaintiffs, the court selects a few sample cases to go to trial. These cases are called bellwether trials in order to determine if the claims will stand up before a jury and, if so, how much damages a jury will award.

The first bellwether trial is a sign that 3M will likely face similar verdicts in more litigation as the first bellwether trial ended with the jury requiring 3M pay a combined total of $7.1 million  to the former service members.

Based upon the first bellwether trial, it is likely that the plaintiff in the second bellwether case will also be awarded a large sum from a jury for the hearing impairment  he suffered as a result of using the 3M earplugs in training. If 3M faces another defeat in its second bellwether case, 3M will likely be inclined to reach a larger settlement sooner for the quarter million victims who suffered hearing loss and consequential damage from the allegedly malfunctioning earplugs. It is also worth mentioning that even before the MDL commenced, 3M was already fighting an uphill battle. For undisclosed reasons 3M discontinued the earplugs in 2015, and in 2018, 3M paid the Justice Department $9.1 million dollars to settle allegations that it knowingly sold the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs without disclosing defects that affected the earplugs’ effectiveness as a hearing protection device.

How Did All of This Start?

After acquiring the company Aero Technologies in 2008, 3M continued to develop the “protective” earplugs to be used by service members. The earplugs, specifically known as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), had a two-way design where one end of the earplug was supposed to stop all noise while the other end protected soldiers from loud noises while still letting them hear the voices of their commanders and soldiers around them. Despite the ambitious design, 3M failed to deliver on the earplug’s double functionality promise  the earplugs have likely caused significant hearing loss and tinnitus for those in the United States military who used the inferior designed product for more than a decade without knowledge of the defect. These earplugs were standard issue for certain branches of the military between 2003 and 2015.

Nevertheless, 3M’s failure did not stop them from selling the earplugs to the government. 3M allegedly knew as early as 2000 that these earplugs were designed with too short a stem, which resulted in the wearer experiencing hearing damage or impairment. 3M sold the earplugs as such, without providing proper instruction as to the fitting of the earplugs and without disclosing the defects.

Honoring Your Service to Our Country

If you suffer from hearing loss and/or tinnitus and served in the United States military or in the reserves between 2003 and 2015 or were a Department of Defense contractor during the same period, and used the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, 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 call us at (954) 384-6114 or you contact us at contactus@oppenheimlaw.com or chat with us at www.oppenheimlaw.com  so we can inform you of your legal rights so you can obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

From the Trenches,

Roy Oppenheim

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