At least 300 more product liability lawsuits have been filed against 3M in federal courts as more military veterans accuse the company of knowingly making defective earplugs that caused veterans to lose hearing during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan or while training on U.S. military bases, according to a news report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. To date, nearly 2,000 U.S. veterans from states such as Minnesota, California and Texas have filed more than 1,000 lawsuits. So far, nearly 140,000 veterans nationwide have said they’ve suffered hearing loss as a result of these faulty earplugs. The company has denied that its products are defective.
Hundreds of Lawsuits Filed
However, many of these lawsuits point to internal documents alleging the company knew the earplugs could slip and might not have been long enough to fully protect wearers from loud noises. The earplugs were designed to give soldiers options depending on whether they inserted the green end of the earplug or the yellow end. One option was supposed to block out all noises and inserting the other end was supposed to allow soldiers to hear critical voice commands while still blocking damaging noises such as explosions. Veterans stated though, that did not happen.
The first lawsuit against 3M came six months after the company in December 2018 agreed to pay military branches $9.1 million to settle government allegations that it supplied defective earplugs. The company did not admit fault as part of the settlement. In the past year alone, more than 150 lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Many of these cases are being consolidated in the Northern District Court of Florida as a “multidistrict litigation” or MDL. In an MDL case, a judge will hear one bellwether case, which could then determine how the other cases would proceed.
Holding Manufacturers Accountable
These cases are particularly egregious because they involve products that were supposed to be protecting members of our military. Loss of hearing is a catastrophic injury, one that results in a lifelong disability. In such cases, injured victims may be able to file a product liability lawsuit seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, loss of life’s enjoyment, permanent injury, disability and pain and suffering. Victims and their families would be well advised to contact an experienced product defect lawyer who will remain on their side, fight for their rights and ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected.