Jason Stephens | October 17, 2023 | Product Liability
If you have served or are currently serving in the military, you know there is no shortage of threats to your hearing, from firearms to heavy machinery. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) notes that hearing-related issues are some of the most common health conditions faced by military veterans.
Because of this risk, hearing protection is issued to military personnel. Between 2003 and 2015, this ear protection included earplugs manufactured by 3M and issued to individuals in certain combat professions. Service members who were issued these earplugs later complained they did not work and that they still suffered hearing loss and tinnitus.
Hearing loss may not seem as severe of an injury as a brain or spinal cord injury, but it can significantly impact your quality of life. You may also face financial difficulties in obtaining the treatment you need. As a result, lawsuits were filed against 3M to compensate service members harmed by the earplugs. Here is what you need to know about these lawsuits.
Lawsuits Filed Against 3M For Defective Earplugs
Hundreds of thousands of veterans who suffered hearing loss and tinnitus filed lawsuits against 3M, alleging the company’s Combat Arms earplugs were defective and did not function as advertised. For its part, 3M countered that its Combat Arms earplugs effectively prevented hearing loss, hearing damage, and tinnitus when used as directed.
Manufacturers like 3M are legally obligated to accurately describe how to use their products and what limitations their products have. A manufacturer cannot advertise that its product is effective for a certain purpose if it cannot, in fact, accomplish that purpose.
Because of this, companies must take reasonable steps to prevent and identify defects in their products and disclose such defects to consumers.
The Combat Arms earplugs were a unique style of earplugs meant to allow service members to use the same set of earplugs for different conditions. When worn one way, the earplugs were supposed to function as any other set of earplugs and reduce all noise.
When worn the other way, however, only certain sounds common on the battlefield were supposed to be blocked, while other sounds could still be heard.
The Recent 3M Earplug Lawsuit Settlement
3M recently announced that a settlement had been reached to resolve approximately 300,000 pending lawsuits against the company for its Combat Arms earplugs. The settlement includes $5 billion in monetary compensation and another $1 billion in company stock and will be paid out over several years.
Despite the settlement, 3M continues to defend its Combat Arms earplugs. The company reiterated that its product was effective when used properly and denied any defects that rendered the earplugs ineffective. In its announcement, 3M asserted its intention to continue defending itself and its product, should the settlement terms not be followed.
One of those requirements is that at least 98% of all eligible claimants must join in the settlement. If this threshold is not met, then 3M retains the right to walk away from the settlement. Even if the settlement goes through, it does not require 3M to admit any liability or wrongdoing.
Veterans Can Still Join the 3M Lawsuit in Fort Worth, TX
The hundreds of thousands of 3M lawsuits filed by military members who were issued the Combat Arms earplugs were meant to hold the company accountable for negligently manufacturing and marketing a product.
The $6 billion settlement recently announced cannot restore hearing or repair damage, but it can provide affected and participating veterans with some measure of compensation for their injuries.
Fort Worth veterans who were issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs between 2003 and 2015 and now have hearing loss or tinnitus may still have time to participate in the 3M settlement. However, this time is quickly running out. It is critical to contact an experienced Fort Worth product liability lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether you can join the 3M lawsuit.
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