Hundreds of U.S. veterans are suing 3M, one of the government’s largest contractors, over negligently constructed earplugs, arguing they caused permanent hearing damage. Allegedly, the earplugs did not maintain a tight seal, which allowed damaging sounds to go through the plugs, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus among military service members returning home from duty between the years of 2003 and 2015.
Over 100 lawsuits have been filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, beginning a mass tort action that could lead to the Minnesota-based company, 3M, to pay millions in damages arising from the negligent construction of the earplugs.
3M Earplug Lawsuit: A Matter of Product Liability
The mass tort action against 3M falls under the realm of product liability. Under these laws, which vary from state to state, a manufacturer has a duty to use reasonable care in the design, manufacture, and distribution of a product. They are also required to provide adequate instructions for use, including applicable warnings and risks inherent in use. For example, under Ohio Revised Code 2307.71(14), a person may file a product liability claim if the product did not conform to the representation of the character, quality, or safety of the product as advertised.
In the case of 3M, the lawsuits allege the company represented the earplugs as filtering out damaging sounds while still allowing service members to hear commands and communicate with other soldiers, though they did not effectively filter out noise. Court documents revealed that 3M employees knew the units were defective as early as the year 2000. Still, the company continued to sell them as late as 2015, affecting the hearing of hundreds of combat veterans.
The lawsuit additionally alleges that testing completed by 3M found that they were defective, but the company falsified certification documents, stating that the plugs were in accordance with military standards.
Though 3M stopped making the earplugs in 2015, it entered a contract with the U.S. government in 2006, supplying 15,000 earplug packages (of 50 earplugs each) to the government annually. The defective earplugs were never recalled; active service members could still be using them today.
Anyone who served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 and experienced hearing loss or balance issues may be able to join the 3M earplug lawsuit. Head attorneys on the case estimate that the hundreds of cases so far are only the tip of the iceberg. If you meet these criteria, contact our office now at 419-843-6663 or schedule a consultation online to discuss your case our experienced MDL and Personal Injury attorneys.