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A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of active-duty soldiers and veterans, seeks medical monitoring for potential hearing damage from 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, which were distributed for years with design defects that may have left members of the military without adequate ear protection during service.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on March 21, seeking class action status to provide compensation to all U.S. military service members who received standard issue, dual-ended earplugs between 2003 and 2015, which may have expose them to a risk of hearing loss and tinnitus.
The lawsuit indicates that 3M Company should be forced to establish a court-supervised fund to provide medical monitoring due to problems with the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2).
The reversible earplugs were designed to serve as traditional earplugs when inserted one way, and provide filtering for certain noises when flipped over. The manufacturer has maintained that this was supposed to block loud noises, while letting the wearer hear spoken commands and other quiet sounds. However, a growing number of military hearing damage lawsuits have been filed in recent months, alleging that 3M Company has known the earplugs were defective for years.
Plaintiffs indicate 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. military, which were too short to properly fit the ear effectively. As a result, the earplugs may not properly seal the ear canal, leaving soldiers without adequate hearing protection.
While most previous complaints have been individual claims filed by veterans who suffered hearing damage, this Combat Arms Earplugs class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of those who may not have yet been diagnosed with hearing damage after using the earplugs.
“This action arises out of serious and permanent personal injuries sustained by Plaintiff, a veteran of the United States military, as well as thousands of similarly situated veterans, who all risked their lives while defending our country,” the lawsuit states. “They used these defective earplugs in training and/or on active military duty domestically and abroad.”
The lawsuit notes that recent Department of Veterans Affairs data suggests that as many as 52% of combat soldiers suffer hearing loss. The class action seeks medical monitoring and presents claims of fraudulent concealment, negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, and negligence.
In July 2018, 3M reached a $9.1 million settlement over the Combat Arms earplug problems with the Department of Justice, resolving claims that it defrauded the government by knowingly selling the defective earplugs, and then by causing soldiers to suffer hearing loss whose health issues have to be addressed by the government.
As more U.S. military veterans learn that hearing problems experienced following service may be the result of defective ear plugs, the number of individual product liability 3M Combat Arms lawsuits pending in courts nationwide is expected to increase dramatically in the coming months.