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3M Company faces a product liability lawsuit brought by a U.S. Army veteran who alleges that he now suffers from hearing loss, tinnitus and requires use of a hearing aid due to design defects with the company’s Combat Arms dual-ended earplugs, which have been issued to nearly all military service members for years.
The complaint (PDF) was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia by Ulrick T. John, a U.S. Army veteran who first joined the military in January 1993, and was deployed to Iraq from May 2008 to August 2009, and again from November 2010 to November 2011.
“At the time of Plaintiff’s deployment and during his pre-deployment training, the 3M Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were standard issue, and were provided to Plaintiff in Georgia,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff wore the Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs while in training and on the field.”
John’s lawsuit indicates that during his service, he was exposed to loud impulse noises and explosions, which the earplugs were supposed to protect him against. However, as a result of alleged design defects and failure to provide proper instructions, John indicates that he was left with permanent hearing damage.
Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were originally introduced by Aearom before it was acquired by 3M Company. The dual ended, or reversible, earplugs are designed to serve as traditional earplugs when inserted one way, but the manufacturer indicated that they provided filtered noise reduction when reversed, blocking loud battlefield noises, while allowing the wearer to hear spoken commands.
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.
John’s claims are part of a growing number of 3M earplug lawsuits now being pursued by former service men and women who now have permanent hearing loss. More than three million veterans suffer from either hearing loss or tinnitus, many of whom may have suffered those injuries due to the use of Combat Arms earplugs, indicating that thousands of lawsuits may be filed in coming months.