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If you served in the US military between 2003 and 2015, you put your trust in earplugs made by reputed brand 3M to protect your hearing as you worked around loud machinery, firearms, and explosives. In July 2018, the Department of Justice concluded that 3M defrauded the government, supplying earplugs that were defective. Thousands of service members are suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus.
As a result of the False Claims Act lawsuit between the Department of Justice and 3M, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million, but they did not have to admit any wrongdoing. Furthermore, that money is not allocated for victims of the defective earplugs. Instead, military men and women must pursue justice on their own or join the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) class-action lawsuit pending in Florida.
The faulty earplugs were originally designed by Aearo Technologies in the early 2000s. They were supposed to be more convenient than other earplugs because they had an open and closed function. With the open function, military members could still speak to other personnel and hear them, but remain protected from the hearing damage caused by loud explosions and gunfire. With a simple twist, the wearer could switch between the two modes.
However, the earplugs did not always sit correctly in the ear canal because they were too short. In some cases, the “closed” function did not fully close. In other cases, the earplug became loose. In all these instances, sound was able to slip past the plug and into the ear canal, damaging the sensitive components of the inner ear.
The Department of Justice alleged in its claim that Aearo knew about the defective earplug design as early as 2000. Yet, the DoJ also alleges that in order to meet government standards, Aearo manipulated field test results.
Additionally, once the 3M company acquired Aearo in 2008, it continued to sell these defective earplugs. In 2012, 3M filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Moldex-Metric, Inc. for their BattlePlugs design, actively preventing Moldex-Metric and other companies from offering non-defective products to the military.
Moldex-Metric responded with a lawsuit against 3M on behalf of the US government, alleging that 3M defrauded the government with false claims about the safety of their earplugs. In 2018, all parties reached a settlement, resulting in the $9.1 million payout from 3M.
In the meantime, active-duty military service members depended on these earplugs to protect them from the damage caused by the loud noises from combat, training equipment, aircraft, and live fire. If you used the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplug (Version 2), or CAEv2, your hearing may be at risk.
If you were deployed to the following combat zones between 2003-2015, you may have suffered hearing damage from defective hearing protection:
Even if you were not deployed, you may have used these earplugs during training exercises. This means even service members who remained stateside could have hearing damage.
It’s estimated that over 1 million veterans had service-connected tinnitus disability ratings by 2013. By the end of 2014, an additional 933,000 veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs immediately. Those with hearing damage may notice:
If you find yourself withdrawing from conversations because you cannot hear clearly, or frustrated because you have to ask others to speak more slowly or loudly, you may be suffering from damage from the 3M earplugs you used in the military.
If you suspect you have hearing loss as a result of your time in the military using 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, you have options. While the initial settlement in federal court does not provide compensation to soldiers, you can pursue damages on your own, or in the class-action Military Earplug Lawsuit.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we have extensive experience litigating in product liability cases. In Michigan, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a claim, but this may be extended in many cases using the law of discovery, or when you first had symptoms of hearing loss or discovered that 3M earplugs may be to blame.
Since the news broke in 2018, this means you have until 2021 to file a notice of intent before discovery expires for many military service members in Michigan.
You should have appropriate medical documentation of your hearing loss, and proof that this damage did not exist before or at the time of your military enrollment. You must have been honorably discharged, and without long-term exposure to damaging noises outside of your military services.
If you have suffered significant damages such as lost wages, lost earning potential, medical bills, pain and suffering, injury, or loss of consortium, you may be eligible for more compensation than a class-action Military Earplug Lawsuit can provide.
Our senior attorney, Eileen Kroll, is a registered nurse and trial lawyer. She is especially adept at reading through medical reports and documentation and assessing the potential impacts your hearing loss can have on your quality of life. Eileen can build a case that is strong and compelling, and we don’t get paid until you win.
If you suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus because of 3M’s earplugs which were designed defectively for the United States military in 2003-2015, you are not alone. In fact, millions of service members may also have hearing damage.
Let us help you today. Call us now at 866-MICH-LAW for a no-obligation consultation. We can help you get justice and compensation for your pain and suffering from your unnecessary hearing loss.
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