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According to allegations raised in a lawsuit filed by a U.S. Army veteran, 3M Company knowingly sold dangerous and defective earplugs to the military, and were willing to put soldiers’ hearing and health at risk to make a profit.
James C. Boyd filed the complaint (PDF) last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, indicating that he was left with personal injuries, such as hearing loss, due to the defective nature of 3M Combat Arms earplugs, which were issued to nearly every Army service member between 2003 and 2015.
Boyd, of North Carolina, joined the Army in September 1998, and served for 20 years before being discharged in 2018. He was deployed on active duty in Iraq from March 2003 until March 2004; Kuwait and Qatar in 2007, and Cambodia in 2010-2011, and again in 2012-2013. During that time, he was supplied with what he describes as “dangerously defective” 3M Combat Arms earplugs. Although he was led to believe the earplugs were both safe and effective, he indicates that he was diagnosed with hearing loss in 2017.
“Plaintiff used Defendant’s dangerously defective Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs during tank firing, training firing, other live fire training, vehicle maintenance, and other training and combat exercises,” Boyd’s lawsuit states. “Defendant sold the Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs to the U.S. military for more than a decade without the military and/or Plaintiff having any knowledge of the defect(s) and failed to adequately warn the military and/or Plaintiff of the defect(s).”
The 3M earplugs were designed to serve as traditional earplugs when inserted one way, and provide filtering for certain noises when reversed. The manufacturer has maintained this was supposed to block loud noises, while letting the wearer hear spoken commands and other quiet sounds. However, a growing number of Combat Arms earplug lawsuits have been filed in recent months, alleging that 3M Company has known the product was defective for years.
Boyd’s case joins a number of similar 3M Combat Arms earplug lawsuits being pursued against the manufacturer, each alleging that 3M Company was aware of design problems with the earplugs and that the products were too short to properly fit the ear effectively. However, the company continued to sell the earplugs to the U.S. Military, leaving soldiers without adequate hearing protection.
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 loss and tinnitus may be the result of defective military 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.