Almost 200 lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts across the United States against 3M Company for damages incurred from allegedly defectively ear plugs 3M distributed to the United States Government and used by the U.S. Military and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The ear plugs, Dual-Ended Combat ArmsTM Earplugs (CAEV2), had a unique dual-ended design with the yellow colored end intended to allow the user to hear low level sounds while the green or olive colored end does not allow any sound to pass through and is to be used when intense sounds are expected.
How Are The 3M Ear Plugs Defective?
The ear plugs were marketed to the U.S Government as having excellent Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) which is a measure of the ear plug’s effectiveness to reduce noise. However, an alleged design defect allows the earplugs to loosen while implanted which causes the user to lose sound protection.
In 2016, the U.S. Government filed a Qui Tam suit against 3M alleging it sold the CAEV2 earplugs to the Government without disclosing this defect. Later that year, 3M settled these allegations agreeing to pay a total of $9.1 million.
Hearing loss is a big concern for military servicemen who are often exposed to extremely loud noises during training and service overseas.
In 2003, almost 30% of veterans had tinnitus at discharge with 15% of veterans suffering moderate to severe hearing loss.
The current numbers are even worse with over half of all combat soldiers suffering from significant hearing loss.
Sound is measured in decibels (db) with a person with normal hearing able to hear sounds from 0 to 140 db. Any sounds greater than 90 db can cause discomfort with sounds greater than 120 db resulting in potential temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Almost all military firearms, grenades and missiles measure far in excess of 120 decibels. A 9mm pistol registers sound at 157 db as does the M-16 rifle carried by most military members.
Military individuals who carry larger weapons like the MAAWS recoilless rifle and the light antitank weapon are exposed to sounds in excess of 182 db. To put these numbers into perspective, a rock concert typically measures 110 decibels, a jet engine at takeoff measures 140 decibels and a rocket at launch measures 180 decibels.
Who Received These Defective 3M Ear Plugs?
The 3M earplugs were purchased and distributed to the U.S. Government from 2003 to 2015.
The U.S. Government then distributed these to military personnel, some federal law enforcement personnel including the Border Patrol and some civilian contractors.
While the CAEV2 earplugs were used by all branches of the military, they were primarily used by the Army, Marines and National Guard. The U.S. Navy and Air Force used a different brand of earplugs due to the frequency their personnel were exposed to tremendously damaging sounds like jet engines.
How Do I Know If I Used the CAEV2 Ear Plugs?
While the U.S. Government purchased and used other earplugs during the period of 2003 through 2015, the CAEV2 earplug was the only dual-ended earplug used by the Government. So if you recall using a dual-ended earplug it must be the CAEV2.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim?
If you used a dual-ended earplug during the period from 2003 to 2015 and also suffered tinnitus or hearing loss you may have a claim for compensation.
The military performs a hearing check on all service members at the time of enlistment, when the service member leaves the military and at various points in between. Therefore, any hearing loss should be substantiated, at least in part, from service records.
How Many Ear Plug Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
Almost 200 cases have been filed in various federal and state courts across the United States with the bulk of these filed in federal courts.
Given the large number of cases already filed, it is expected that the cases will be consolidated into an MDL (Multi-District Litigation) by the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation. A petition was filed to consolidate these cases which will be heard by the Judicial Panel on March 28, 2019.