A federal jury in Florida has awarded $7.1 million in damages to three U.S. Army veterans finding that 3M Company failed to warn them about design flaws in earplugs widely sold to the U.S. military, which ultimately caused hearing loss. According to a report on Military.com, this closely-watched product liability lawsuit is the first of thousands to go to trial. It could set the precedent for the manner in which other proceedings are handled.
More than 230,000 service members have sued 3M, claiming that the Minnesota-based manufacturer knew that its Combat Arms earplugs were defective and yet sold them without any warnings causing service members to suffer life-changing injuries and disabilities. 3M has said it did not agree with the jury’s verdict and has indicated it might appeal the decision.
The Earplugs Did Not Work
U.S. soldiers used the 3M earplugs for years in combat and in training missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the United States. 3M acquired the earplugs when it bought Aearo Technologies back in 2008. It stopped selling the products in 2015. The dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were designed with one side to block all noise and the other to let through voice commands. It was supposed to block harmful, loud noises such as those coming from explosives.
However, military members said that did not happen. During the trial, plaintiffs and their attorneys said they found evidence that Aearo knew years ago that one of the flaps in the earplug was too short and could create a problem with the fit. The veterans in their lawsuit argued that Aearo and later 3M failed to warn service members about the findings of its own lab and test results. The lawsuits began to pile up since 2018 after 3M agreed to pay U.S. military branches $9.1 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit.
Product Liability Issues
When a product is defectively designed or defectively manufactured or does not work as intended, the manufacturer and/or distributor of the products can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. In this case, service members suffered permanent hearing loss because of the damage to their ears caused by the loud noise in combat – the harmful noise these earplugs were supposed to block.
In such cases, victims may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress. If you or a loved one has been affected by these 3M earplugs or other defective products, please contact an experienced product defect lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.