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Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit

In July 2018, the American multinational corporation 3M settled a whistleblower lawsuit brought by the federal government alleging that the company knowingly supplied defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the US military. 3M was accused of violating the False Claims Act by selling the defective earplugs, falsifying test results and not disclosing the design defect that exposed the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan from hearing loss during the period of 2003 to 2015.


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Combat Earplugs

The CAEv2 earplugs were used by the military to protect their hearing. Instead, the earplugs exposed soldiers to hearing loss because the defective design prevented the devices from maintaining a tight fit. The short stem would dislodge and users were unaware that they weren’t adequately protected.

3M designed the hearing safety equipment as being dual-ended, so they could be flipped for more protection around gunfire or explosions. Users could –purportedly— reduce or block intense noise without obstructing quieter sounds such as nearby voices. The Combat Earplugs were sold to the US military so that users could hear low-level sounds that were essential to their safety while blocking high-level noises like explosions and gunshots.

Aearo Technologies, Inc. originally designed the earplugs. 3M bought the company in 2008 and then hired Aearo employees to develop and test the defective Combat Earplugs. Those lab technicians that tested the earplugs and the scientists who supervised and documented the testing are still employed by 3M.

Hearing Loss in Veterans

Aearo knew of the defect at least as early as 2000, according to the qui tam lawsuit. Thousands of soldiers experienced ringing or buzzing in their ears, which also created a risk to their fellow military servicemen and women. In 2014, 933,333 veterans received disability benefits for hearing impairment and 1.3 million received disability compensation for tinnitus – a condition that is difficult to diagnose and there is no cure. Hearing loss is the most common service-connected disability among US veterans.

Qui Tam 3M Lawsuit

The $9.1 million dollar settlement brought against 3M and Aearo by the US government stemmed from a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit that alleged the companies fraudulently claimed that their CAEv2earplugs met specific safety specifications. Both companies apparently knew the devices were not long enough to adequately insert into some soldiers’ ears. The complaint further claimed that test results were falsified in order to deceive the government into believing the earplugs complied with mandatory safety requirements. The whistleblower lawsuit was brought in 2016 under the False Claims Act by Moldex-Metric, Inc., a 3M competitor. This act allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government in cases of fraud. As part of the settlement, Moldex-Metric will receive $1.9 million, according to the Department of Justice .

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that 3M and Moldex-Metric have sued each other over several years. 3M accused Moldex of infringing on several of its earplug patents, while Moldex countersued, accusing 3M of lying and falsely making allegations about earplug products that predated 3M versions. Moldex further alleged in its lawsuits that a 3M dual-ended earplug had failed to pass certain safety tests, which violated its military sales contracts.

The case is United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.). The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Veterans File a Hearing Loss/Tinnitus Claim

The massive $9.1million settlement reimburses the government for the public funds paid to the companies. If you are a veteran – or you know a veteran— with hearing problems and you were active in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the earplug manufacturer. If you want to be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, pain and more, contact an experienced product liability attorney to help you file a claim.

3M Combat Arms Defective Earplugs Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered similar damages or injuries, please fill in our form and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
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3M Sending Payments for Faulty Combat Earplugs
3M Sending Payments for Faulty Combat Earplugs
February 12, 2024
As part of its $6 billion faulty combat earplug settlement, 3M began sending payments last month to military veterans who suffered hearing loss and other significant injuries. The payments will resolve about 300,000 lawsuits claiming the manufacturing company knowingly sold defective earplugs that caused hearing loss and tinnitus. Those affected are mainly US military who were in training and combat from 2003 to 2015. READ MORE

3M’s Earplugs v. The U.S. Trustee
3M’s Earplugs v. The U.S. Trustee
October 31, 2023
A group of 3M’s Aearo Technologies’ attorneys have taken issue with the U.S. Trustee’s objection to their motion seeking more than $7 million in fees in the 3M combat arms earplug lawsuit settlement of more than $6 billion. Without their "substantial contribution" to the dismissal of the Aearo bankruptcy case, the attorneys said in an Indiana bankruptcy court, 3M would never have reached a settlement for about 240,000 people who filed defective earplug complaints. And wouldn’t you know it – on the heels of this settlement comes an identity theft scam targeting veterans. READ MORE

3M Settles Earplug Lawsuits for $6 Billion
3M Settles Earplug Lawsuits for $6 Billion
September 13, 2023
3M announced in August that it reached a $6 billion settlement over defective earplug lawsuits brought by thousands of veterans and military service members who have suffered hearing damage. From 2003 to 2105 the military used the earplugs to protect them from combat noise, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. 3M earplug lawsuits—which grew into the largest mass tort litigation in U.S. history—claim that the chemical giant knew during those years that their earplugs were defective and they hid design flaws, skewed test results and neglected to provide instructions for the proper use of the earplugs. READ MORE


Posted by

Why are these lawsuits only for the early 2003 era , I came home from the Gulf-War with hearing loss in one ear i was told that it would go away and get better it;s like every lie that they tell you (It's always going to get better and it never does i still have buzzing and blockage in my ear and i still have vertigo from time to time because of it the ear plug were always a insificant but that's all we had so you had to make the best of it. Why can't they just get it right wants the damage is done it's done i get it i've been there None of us had the correct ear protection just look at the DAV medical report on the matter this lawsuit needs to be reevaluated on this matter.

DAV (Gulf War)

Posted by

While on Army active duty from 2000-2005 and deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-2004 utilizing ear protection issued by said branch. I have been diagnosed with tinnitus, hearing loss, and severally scarred eardrums. How does this lawsuit for this particular thing work in conjunction with the VA compensation of this particular loss ?

Posted by

I am a vetren diagnosed with tinnitus I was in the army from 2010-2014 and deployed 2012-2013. I am seeing if I can file for the 3m ear plugs

Posted by

USAF, Retired, effective 31December2006

Posted by

I was deployed to Iraw in 2003 and 2005 as well as deployments to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009.

I have been stationed on airfields as well as have supported mechanized units and aviation assets. I have used the combat earplugs during my deployments. I know that my hearing has progressively gotten worse ove time.

Posted by

I have had significant hearing loss since I joined the military in 2013 and used these on multiple occasions when on the range to driving vehicles.


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