Veterans win $7.1 million verdict in first trial against 3M over defective military earplugs

by Heygood Orr and Pearson

A federal jury in Florida has awarded $7.1 million in damages to three Army veterans, finding that 3M failed to warn about design flaws in Combat Arms earplugs sold to the military that ultimately caused hearing loss.  The jury awarded each of the plaintiffs $2.1 million in punitive damages and a total of $830,500 in compensatory damages for their medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering.

The verdict follows the first trial among a massive number of lawsuits that have been filed by veterans regarding hearing loss and the 3M earplugs.  More than 230,000 veterans have already sued 3M, claiming that the company knew the Combat Arms earplugs (CAEv2) were defective and yet sold them anyway without warnings.

The U.S. military used Combat Arms earplugs for years in in combat and in training missions.

The nonlinear dual-ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 (“CAEv2”) was supposed to protect users by filtering peak-level noises.  The earplugs were supposed to let through voice commands but block other harmful loud sounds such as those emanating from explosives. They were developed by Aearo Technologies who eventually sold their company to 3M.

From 2003 to 2015, these 3M earplugs were standard issue.   However, according to the veterans in the many cases filed, the 3M earplugs failed to securely seal inside the ear canal.  Almost immediately after the plugs were inserted, they would loosen. This left service personnel unprotected from damaging high-level sounds that cause significant hearing problems.  Making matters worse, service members typically had no idea that the earplugs were too loose and not providing the necessary protection.   Service members wore the defective earplugs for years not realizing their hearing was was not being protected.

Veterans are suing against 3M and alleging the earplugs were defective and actually did nothing to protect soldiers from significant hearing loss, subjecting them to the risk of deafness.  Most victims are military veterans between the ages of 30 and 49 with a combination of tinnitus and hearing loss. 

3M has previously agreed to pay $9.1 million to the government to resolve allegations brought by a whistleblower under the False Claims Act that that 3M knowingly sold the earplugs to the military without disclosing defects that decreased the hearing protection.

Any current or former U.S. Military service-member who was issued and used 3M earplugs while on duty, and who later suffered any form of hearing loss or damage, including conditions like tinnitus or issues with balance, should contact an attorney to discuss their legal options.

 For more information about filing a lawsuit against 3M regarding Combat Arms earplugs, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form.