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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, potentially millions of U.S. military soldiers may have been left with serious hearing damage due to design defects with 3M Combat Arms earplugs, which were standard issue equipment for more than a decade.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Robert E. Lambert in the U.S. District Court for the District of Florida on July 12, indicating that he and millions of other servicemen and women were supplied the dual-ended earplugs without realizing they were defective and did not provide adequate hearing protection.
Lambert indicates that he joined the U.S. Army in 2007, and used the 3M earplugs throughout his service while deployed and training, until he was discharged in 2015. He was deployed to Afghanistan from January 2008 through July 2008, and again from November 2009 to November 2010, claiming that the defective earplugs resulted in his diagnosis of hearing damage in 2015.
“Defendant’s Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were standard issue in certain branches of the military (including Plaintiff’s) between at least 2003 to at least 2015,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, Defendant’s Dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs have likely caused thousands, if not millions, of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss, tinnitus, and additional injuries related to hearing loss, including but not limited to, pain and suffering and loss of the pleasures of life.”
The complaint joins a growing number of military earplug lawsuits filed against 3M Company in recent months, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturer knew the earplugs were defective, since they were too short to fit the ear of certain users.
As a result, the earplugs may not properly seal the ear canal, leaving soldiers at risk for hearing damage. However, 3M Company continued to sell the Combat Arms earplugs to the U.S. military and profit from the defective earplugs, according to allegations raised in the lawsuits.
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 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.