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Active duty and veteran service members in the Fort Hood community have begun seeking representation to file lawsuits against Minnesota-based tech company 3M. These lawsuits stem from allegedly defective earplugs issued to service members deployed to foreign conflict zones from 2003 – 2015.
Service members claim that the company’s dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 had an ineffective design that allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through and damage hearing. The yellow and black earplugs were too short for proper insertion into the ear. As a result, the earplugs subtly loosened and allowed dangerous sound levels to enter the ear and harm military members’ hearing.
Army veteran, and Carlson Law Firm client Gilberto Figueroa is one of many Central Texas veterans who has joined the fight. Figueroa enlisted in the army in 2002, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his deployments, he used the black and yellow earplugs to protect his hearing. What he couldn’t have known at the time was those earplugs were defective.
Figueroa was medically discharged from the army in 2012 and was later diagnosed with hearing loss and Tinnitus. The constant ringing in his ears makes it difficult for him to go about his daily lifestyle.
A Whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2016 alleges that the company knew about the defects as early as 2000, however, the company failed to inform government officials or correct the problem. In addition, the original lawsuit asserts that the company falsified documents stating the earplugs complied with military standards.
As an exclusive earplug supplier, 3M supplied about 2.2 million earplugs to the U.S. military to use in war zones.
“It’s beyond troubling that a company would knowingly put those serving and protecting our country in harm’s way,” Carlson Law Firm Managing Partner Craig Carlson said. “As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I refuse to stand by and watch an entity place profit over the safety of our service members. We will hold them accountable for their actions.”
The company was the exclusive manufacturer of earplugs for deployed soldiers who served in the following wars:
- War of Afghanistan
- Iraq War
- War in North-West Pakistan
- War in Somalia
- American-led intervention in Libya
- Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
- American- led interventions in Iraq (2014-2017)
- American-led intervention in Syria (2014-present)
Government Action and Response
The Department of Justice launched an investigation and found that the dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs supplied by 3M were too short for proper insertion into the ears. The defect led to subtle improper fits that users may not have noticed. This rendered the earplugs ineffective in performing the desired level of noise cancellation.
The DOJ cited enforcement of the False Claims Act to protect U.S. tax dollars from “waste, fraud, and abuse.” In July 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Hearing injuries resulting from 3M’s negligence were largely preventable. Rather than do right by our country’s bravest, the company put its bottom line first.
If you or a vet you know is suffering the effects of hearing loss or tinnitus after using 3M dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs, contact The Carlson Law Firm to schedule a free consultation with a defective 3M earplug lawsuit attorney. We are a veteran-owned and operated firm committed to ensuring our fellow veterans receive justice.