After the $9 settlement between 3M and the military was announced in 2018, that centered around faulty 3M Combat Arms earplugs, the legal floodgates opened for veterans who developed tinnitus and/or hearing loss as a result of using the defective hearing-protection devices. In that settlement, individual vets were not directly represented in the case, and therefore did not receive compensation.
However, since the settlement, more than 220,000 current or former U.S. servicemen and servicewomen are now involved in one of the largest mass tort lawsuits in recent history, says The Post and Courier, which is based in South Carolina, whose capital, Columbia, was where the 2018 settlement was announced.
Several 3M faulty earplug trials are scheduled for next year, with the first bellwether trial to be held in April. A prominent lawyer told The Post and Courier, “The sheer number of cases shows how much of an effect this has had on our service members, and it’s not easy for them to bring that lawsuit. Many believe they took the risk and should suffer the consequences, but our service members were hoodwinked [by 3M].
3M Defends Combat Arms V2 Earplugs
A spokesman for 3M defended the Minnesota-based company’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, telling The Post and Courier that the number of cases is reflective of broad marketing appeals from lawyers and that it doesn’t represent the legal and factual merits of a case.
“The company worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the product, and its design reflected the direction and feedback of individuals acting on the military’s behalf. The CAEv2 product is effective and safe to use, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against plaintiffs’ claims,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier this year, 3M attempted to have all earplug lawsuits filed against the company thrown out, on the grounds that as a defense contractor, it should not be held liable for fulfilling a government contract.
However, the judge said that because the military did not actively design the earplugs, and were therefore not designed to proper military standards, 3M’s government contractor defense strategy is invalid.
Court Records Show 3M Was Aware of Defect For Years
Court documents reveal that 3M was aware of a defect in the earplugs as early as 2000. However, the Combat Arms earplugs would continue to be the US military’s exclusive noise-abatement device, earning 3M more than $30 million in sales through 2009, and were sold to the military until 2015.
For more information on 3M Lawsuits, read: Faulty 3M Military Earplug Lawsuits Explode To Nearly 200,000