A federal jury has awarded a U.S. Army veteran $8.2 million after finding that combat earplugs sold by 3M Co. caused him to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus. The condition can cause victims to experience ringing or other noises in one or both of their ears. According to a Reuters news report, this is one of the biggest verdicts yet against the company in mass tort litigation over the product. The earplugs were developed by Aearo Technologies LLC, which 3M purchased in 2008.
Damage Caused by Design Defect
Jurors in Pensacola, Florida, took the side of former U.S. Army soldier Brandon Adkins after finding that the earplugs had a design defect and that 3M failed to provide adequate safety warnings. His lawsuit was the fourth to go to trial out of more than 259,000 cases pending in the largest multidistrict litigation ever. 3M has said they will be “ready to defend themselves” in upcoming trials.
Plaintiffs allege that the company concealed design flaws, fudged test results, and failed to provide instruction in the proper use of Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2. The earplugs were used by the U.S. Army from 2007 to 2013. 3M has denied the allegations. Adkins’ case was the fourth “bellwether” to go to trial. These are cases typically used to gauge the range of damages and define the range of settlement options.
The earplugs in question, sometimes, only worked properly when the flexible cups on the side protruding from the ear were folded back. Military veterans say 3M failed to relay this information to them and that they learned about the issue only when 3M in 2018 paid $9.1 million to resolve government claims that it failed to disclose these defects. The 35-year-old Adkins who served in the Army from 2004 to 2009 and did two tours in Afghanistan suffers from tinnitus as well as hearing loss, according to his lawsuit, and said that the earplugs should have protected him against the hearing damage.
Product Liability Issues
In this case, the earplugs failed to work as intended. The company that manufactured them also failed to inform consumers about the defect, resulting in so many soldiers who set out to defend our freedoms and fight for our country permanently suffering hearing loss.
As product defect attorneys, we are relieved that the Florida jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff who has suffered hearing loss in his 30s. It’s truly tragic. We hope other plaintiffs continue to see justice and receive fair compensation as they have their day in court.