3M Military Earplug Lawsuit Lawyer- Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
When a government contractor sells the government a product that does not work, they are usually subject to large penalties. When this product is one that is used by members of the military as military hearing protection, it can subject the company to additional liability. This liability manifests itself through the form of military hearing protection product liability lawsuits. 3M has recently settled a 3M Earplug lawsuit filed by the government that it made false claims in supplying the military with these military hearing protection combat earplugs. This claim was originally filed by a whistleblower on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Now that the military earplug lawsuit settlement has been entered into, the first 3m Combat Arms earplug lawsuits have been filed by former service members against the company for injuries suffered through use of the defective 3m earplugs. There are currently nearly on hundred and fifty thousand defective earplug lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Florida.
142,000 military earplug lawsuits filed in Federal Court
- The Multi-district litigation lawsuit is known as, “IN RE: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation.”
- There are currently 142,527 lawsuits pending (as of Aug 17, 2020) before M. Casey Rodgers (Chief Judge, USDC) in MDL -2885.
What are the criteria to be in the 3M Earplug Lawsuit?
3M Aearo Technologies Earplugs / military hearing protection Criteria:
- Claimant Served in the Military between 2003 and 2015
- Claimants used the 3M or Aearo Technologies “Dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs–Version 2”
- Military ear plugs claimant suffered partial or full hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
Combat arms lawsuit updates
Update- 11-24-2020- “The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, in its 2020 fiscal year report, says that they can confirm an influx of more than 200,000 lawsuits against 3M over the design of the faulty earplug. This ranks this multidistrict litigation as the largest in recent United States history. To put this statistic into perspective, the MDL involving asbestos, which previously held this title, reached around 186,000 lawsuits. Unlike the 3M lawsuit, the asbestos lawsuit needed more than a decade to become the largest MDL; it has only taken the 3M MDL lawsuit one year.” Lawyers
7/27/2020- “3M Not Entitled to Governmental Immunity In Defending Lawsuit Over Combat Earplugs, Judge Says In the first substantive ruling to come out of the Multidistrict Litigation over allegedly defective earplugs, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers refused to grant summary judgment based on 3M’s government contractor defense.” 3m failed to show “exceptional circumstances” in order to file an immediate appeal. 3M asserted that they were entitled to governmental immunity from civil lawsuits because they operated under a duty to the federal government. United States District Judge Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida denied 3M’s bid to dismiss thousands of lawsuits filed in the MDL. Justice Rodgers determined that 3M’s arguments were effectively bogus by citing a US Supreme Court decision in 1988, Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. “Defendants have identified no authority — none — in which a defendant having no design obligation to the federal government nonetheless enjoyed the benefit of the government’s sovereign immunity pursuant to Boyle.”
5/7/2020- “Pensacola, FL- Recent unsealed depositions confirm that 3M officials knew their Combat Arms earplugs were defective and that information was withheld from the military. Further, some 3M employees didn’t believe that soldiers “needed to know how to adjust” their earplugs so they would fit properly. A federal judge in Pensacola on April 20 made hundreds of documents public. Besides depositions, these documents include emails, memos and receipts related to the Defense Department’s purchase of 3M’s earplugs between 2003 and 2015. In the depositions, Elliot Berger, division scientist for 3M’s Personal Safety Division, acknowledged an internal memo that said “ the existing product has problems unless the user instructions are revised,” reported Bloomberg Government, a division of Bloomberg Industry Group. As well, when Timothy McNamara, 3M’s sales manager for the U.S. Midwest was asked during his deposition whether soldiers were entitled to know that the way the company tested the earplugs wasn’t the same way that service members were instructed to use them, he answered “I don’t believe so.” Lawyers and Settlements
“Despite visiting military bases frequently, McNamara said that he never shared how to use the earplugs in order to achieve the advertised noise-reduction rating, reported Bloomberg. Plaintiffs argue that 3M knew from testing that the earplugs were too short to fit properly into an ear canal and could loosen in a way that was imperceptible to the wearer. 3M modified the design but the military was given information to show that the modification was for people with very large ear canals. Other testing results were conducted before the earplugs were shortened to fit into a carrying case, according to court documents.” Id.
4/29/2020- “AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed last week in a class action lawsuit against 3M regarding allegedly faulty earplugs it sold the military for use by service members in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The documents, made public April 20 by a federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., include emails, depositions, memos and receipts related to the Defense Department’s mass purchase of earplugs from the company between 2003 and 2015. They provide a glimpse into the case that now includes claims from more than 140,000 veterans. 3M peddled these earplugs to the public and the United States military despite knowing they were dangerous and defective, perpetrating an ongoing fraud on our country and its citizens,” the plaintiffs’ lead counsel said in a statement.” Stripes
4/24/2020- “U.S. combat troops were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with protective earplugs that they may not have known how to fit properly, and some employees of manufacturer 3M Co. didn’t believe soldiers needed to be told how to adjust the devices, according to unsealed depositions by company officials in a mass tort lawsuit. In the depositions, reviewed by Bloomberg Government, 3M officials couldn’t point to documents or calls in which U.S. military representatives were told that the earplugs can imperceptibly loosen. Yet internal memos acknowledged “the existing product has problems unless the user instructions are revised,” according to Elliot Berger, division scientist for 3M’s Personal Safety Division. In addition, Timothy McNamara, 3M’s sales manager for the U.S. Midwest, said he didn’t “believe so,” when asked during his deposition whether soldiers were entitled to know that the way the company tested the earplugs—and achieved a high noise reduction rating—was different than the way service members were instructed to use them. McNamara, who visited military bases on a regular basis, also acknowledged he never shared how to use the earplugs in order to achieve the advertised noise-reduction rating.” Bloomberg Government
4/2/2020- “3M Co has moved to dismiss thousands of lawsuits by service members and veterans alleging it sold defective earplugs to the military, saying their state-law claims were based on a design element mandated by the U.S. Army. 3M in a motion filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida on Wednesday said the military approved precise specifications for the company, a contractor, to follow and took responsibility for training service members how to properly use the earplugs.” Reuters
5/29/19- “On May 22nd Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued Pretrial Order No. 7 naming the leadership for the plaintiffs in the 3M Combat Arms™ Earplugs MDL. Selection was made from among 190 applicants. Bryan Aylstock was named Lead Counsel, supported by Shelley Hutson and Chris Seeger as Co-Lead Counsel. Brian Barr and Michael Burns were named Co-Liaison Counsel. These five lawyers, along with Evan Buxner, Tom Cartmell, Mark Lanier, Roberto Martinez, Paul Pennock, Adam Wolfson and Genevieve Zimmerman will comprise the Executive Committee.”
What are 3M Combat Earplugs?
3M’s combat >earplugs were intended to prevent loud noises from entering soldiers’ ears and causing damage. Combat often subjects military forces to noises that are literally deafening. If the combat ear plugs do not work, soldiers can suffer permanent and debilitating hearing loss complications or tinnitus. The latter condition is when there is actual ringing in the ears or the sensation of ringing.
The combat earplugs that were supplied by 3M were dual ended earplugs. Either end of them can be inserted in the ear. There was a different type of protection depending on which end was inserted into the ear. These were supplied to all troops in combat from 2003 to 2015. This spanned wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The earplugs were initially made by Aearo Technologies, but 3M bought the company in 2008. Aearo and then 3M were the exclusive provider of 3M earplugs to the U.S. military.
It all started with 640 lawsuits consolidated to Northern District of Florida
Many victims are wondering how the MDL in Federal Court commenced? In April 2019, there were 640 Military earplug lawsuits pending in Federal Court. In a little more than a year, the 3M lawsuits have ballooned to over 142,000 lawsuits filed(August 2020). “A federal judicial panel has sent more than 640 lawsuits to Florida that allege defective earplugs caused hearing problems in U.S. military service members. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation coordinated the lawsuits, brought against 3M, in an order on Wednesday, selecting U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida. Many of the plaintiffs attorneys had supported districts in Minnesota and Missouri, and 3M had supported Minnesota, home of its headquarters. Other lawyers had pushed for districts in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. But the panel appeared influenced by the national scope of the lawsuits.” Law.com
Judge Casey has resources and expertise to manage this litigation
“Centralization in this district allows the panel to assign this nationwide litigation to a forum with the necessary judicial resources and expertise to manage this litigation efficiently and in a manner convenient for the parties and witnesses,” wrote the panel’s chairwoman, Sarah Vance. “Judge M. Casey Rodgers, to whom we assign these proceedings, is an able jurist with experience in presiding over a large products liability MDL.” Id.
Defects Affecting the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs
- The issue with these earplugs is that they loosen in the ear. This not only reduces the level of protection, but it leaves the ear vulnerable to the loud noise that the earplugsare intended to block.
- In other words, when the earplugs move out of place they simply do not work. This occurs because one end of the earplug presses against the wearer’s ear canal and folds back to its original shape.
- The earplug only works when it can mold itself to the ear, and when it returns to its original shape after being inserted into the ear, it is malfunctioning. This is because it does not maintain the seal that it is supposed to give to protect against noise.
Whistleblower 3M earplug lawsuit
Historically, this all started when 3M was sued by a whistleblower related to the ear plug case on behalf of the United States Government. One of the remedies that can be applied when a company sells defective products to the federal government is a suit under something known as the False Claims Act. This statute is intended to punish those that defraud the government in any way. The real meat of the statute comes from the potential penalties. The government can recover up to three times the damages that it suffered. That punishment is intended to act as a deterrent to those that would attempt to defraud the government. Anyone can bring suit on behalf of the government in an action that is called a qui tam. The whistleblower, who is referred to as the relator, can receive a portion of the money that the government recovers.
Here, the ear plug case, otherwise known as the “3M lawsuit” claimed that the defects in these plugs were known to the manufacturer as far back as 2000, and were not disclosed. 3M was accused of certifying that these earplugs met the relevant testing standard when, in fact, they did not. 3M settled the False Claims Act lawsuit in July 2018. As part of the settlement, 3M paid the government $9.1 million to resolve the False Claims Act allegations. The company did not admit guilt as part of the settlement.This False claims act settlement is the beginning of the problems for 3M as hearing loss settlement amounts will need to be paid to tens of thousand of victims.
Product Liability Suits about military hearing protection Against 3M
Recently, veterans have begun to file lawsuits against 3M related to the combat ear plugs, claiming that they suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of the defective earplugs. Notwithstanding any settlement with the federal government, veterans and military personnel can still file suit against 3M. In fact, injured service members have to sue 3M as a result of the army ear plugs if they want compensation because the Feres Doctrine prevents them from filing suit against the United States.
Product liability theory
These army ear plugs lawsuits have proceeded under thep roduct liability theory , alleging that the earplugs were defective. If the plaintiffs can show that these earplugs were defective and caused their injury, then they can recover from 3M. The company had a duty to warn of the defects of their product and failed to do so.
Combat Arms lawsuits history- early 2019
At least 11 combat arms ear plug lawsuits were filed in January 2019. Several of the ear plug lawsuits were filed in Minnesota, where 3M is based. The soldiers who filed these combat arms suits alleged that they have suffered some degree of permanent hearing loss from the use of these earplugs. These lawsuits were simply just the beginning of what turned out to be a torrent of legal action that the company is now facing. Given the sheer number of soldiers who were sent into combat and were required to use these earplugs, it was now anticipated that 3M could eventually be facing over 200,000 lawsuits. (142,000 as of August 2020)
What is Multidistrict litigation?
Multi-district litigation is not the same as a class action suits. Multi-district litigation merely consolidates cases together for purposes of discovery, settlement and pretrial issues as opposed to litigating the merits of all of the cases at one time. With multi-district litigation, there are several bellwether trials to determine the merits of the lawsuit and possibly the proper settlement value. Other military earplug lawsuit attorneys indicated an intent to possibly file a class-action lawsuit.
If you served in combat overseas after 2003 used military ear protection and have suffered any form of hearing loss or have any problems hearing, you should immediately contact a ear plug case lawyer to discuss your case. When you speak with the 3M earplug lawsuit lawyer, you can relay the facts of your case, and the lawyer can inform you of your legal options and the process whereby you can possibly recover for the damages that you have suffered. The consultation is free and the 3m earplug lawsuit lawyer is usually not paid unless you receive some sort of combat arms financial compensation as a result of your military earplug lawsuit.
Sources and more information about military hearing protection, the 3 M lawsuit and military earplug lawsuit (3m):