In 2003, the United States military ordered Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) from Aearo Technologies, Inc., which was later acquired by 3M, an American multinational corporation, in 2008. Between 2003 and 2015, these companies supplied approximately 2.2 million defective combat earplugs to the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, over 2.6 million veterans have received disability compensation for total or partial hearing loss, tinnitus, and other ear and hearing-related medical conditions.
The False Claims Act Provision
In 2016, a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act by a competing ear plug manufacturer, Moldex Metric, Inc. The False Claims Act allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government and share in any funds that are recovered from the lawsuit. In this case, the whistleblower will receive nearly $2 million.
According to allegations, both 3M and Aearo Technologies, Inc. knew this product was defective. Ideally, these dual-ended earplugs would reduce intense noises, such as gunfire and explosions, without obstructing low-level sounds, like voices. However, over time, the short stem would dislodge until the earplugs were essentially useless. Despite being aware of the defect, 3M didn’t disclose this information when the contract was finalized, and even falsified test results to comply with the military’s mandatory safety requirements.
Without admitting liability, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle allegations that it knowingly sold defective combat earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort between the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the following statement: “The settlement announced today resolves all allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.”
Are You Suffering Hearing-Related Issues Due to 3M’s Defective Earplugs?
From 2003-2015, over 1, 560,000 active infantrymen were deployed to U.S. war zones. If you’ve been harmed by 3M’s defective combat earplugs, contact the Phoenix product liability lawyers at Alex & Associates today. Our legal team has been proudly representing the residents of Arizona for over 40 years. We have the experience, skills, and resources to effectively investigate your case and represent your hearing loss claim both in and out of court. Depending on your personal circumstances and legal objectives, we can help you can secure essential service-connected disability compensation and benefits.
We’re available 24/7. Contact our Alex & Associates at (602) 483-6114 to schedule a case evaluation.