Articles Tagged with Combat Arms earplugs

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Soldier exposed to harmful levels of noise
Litigation involving 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (“3M Earplugs”) is advancing. Recently deposition testimony from 3M and Aearo employees was made public, and some of the answers are troubling. It brings me no joy to play the role of Chicken Little, but when companies are tempted by massive profits, too often those companies will cut corners on consumer safety. In this case, those consumers were millions of soldiers serving their country from 2003 to 2015.

First, in a recent deposition a 3M marketing manager confirmed that 3M was selling the dual-ended earplugs to the military for $7.63, even though it cost the company just $.85 to manufacture, a 900% markup. In an email the 3M employee remarked “LOL,” apparently about the hefty price increase for the 3M Earplugs.

Second, as I wrote about a year ago, one of the central allegations in the soldiers’ claims against 3M is that the company did not adequately test the 3M Earplugs before selling millions of them to the military. Nevertheless, in deposition testimony 3M officials stated that they did not believe it was necessary for soldiers to know that the earplugs were tested under conditions that were different from the conditions the soldiers would experience in the field. In fact, a former vice-president at Aearo Technologies testified that he thought it was OK to conceal information from the government about potential defects in the earplugs. He also confirmed that it was acceptable to sell a product and conceal information that the product could have a negative effect on soldiers.

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iStock-812590884-300x200We rely on safety equipment to do what it was meant to do: protect us.  But this is precisely what 3M earplugs have failed to do for our troops. The specific product at issue? 3M’s now discontinued Combat Arms earplugs issued to U.S. military servicemen and women from 2002 until 2013. The fundamental flaw with the earplugs? They were too short and therefore could not adequately provide hearing protection to our troops while they were in combat situations or were involved in training activities. The result? Many members of our military now have to deal with irreparable, but completely avoidable, hearing damage from a defective product. Combat situations are dangerous enough as it is. Service members should have the peace of mind that basic safety equipment will be free of fundamental defects and will function properly.

These Combat Arms earplugs got the attention of the United States government. In 2016 the Justice Department accused 3M of knowingly providing defective earplugs after the government learned of 3M’s activities thanks to whistle-blower activities by another earplug maker, Moldex-Metric, Inc. In the summer of 2018, 3M paid approximately $9.1 million to settle the claims made by the government. Justice, however, is far from complete. There are countless veterans and current active duty military now dealing with the hearing damage from relying on these faulty products for hearing protection. These individuals, however, are not seeing a penny from the 2018 settlement. Individual lawsuits against 3M are therefore necessary for those damaged to obtain compensation for the preventable damage done to their bodies.

War veteran injured by 3M Combat Arms EarplugsThe Combat Arms earplugs at issue were originally developed by Aearo Technologies; 3M later acquired the company and its products. These earplugs had a two-sided design that was supposed to provide ear protection no matter which side was inserted into the ear. The yellow side was supposed to provide protection against high-level impulsive noise while still allowing the wearer to hear talking, commands and other lower level noises. The other side, the green side, was intended to block out all sounds. According to several lawsuits brought by injured service members, the earplugs did not work as designed, largely because they did not stay in place properly due to their length. Internal documents linked to 3M allegedly suggest that 3M was on notice of the defect and failed to take action. Now, our veterans are paying the price.

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