Hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed in April by a federal judge in Florida. These documents were related to the lawsuits against manufacturer 3M and their defectively designed earplugs that were used by members of the military in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The released documents include emails, depositions, memos, and receipts related to the U.S. Department of Defense’s purchase of the earplugs from 3M.
The lawsuits relate to the 3M Combat Arms earplugs that were used by thousands of military personnel. During the course of their employment, military personnel face a number of loud noises that can be damaging to their hearing. That’s why they relied on earplugs to protect themselves from this damage. The earplugs in question were too short to provide adequate protection to soldiers who used them, and 3M was aware of this fact. The earplugs, as designed, could come loose in the ear canal without the knowledge of the user. Once they were loose, the earplugs failed to provide the proper protection. Many veterans who wore the earplugs now suffer from hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
The documents that were recently unsealed demonstrate that the earplugs in question constituted 5% of 3M’s U.S. revenue. The earplugs cost only 85 cents to make, and yet 3M charged the military $7.63. The depositions in question show that 3M was aware that their product was defective. An executive of a company owned by 3M was asked if it was okay to sell a product and conceal information where it will have a negative effect on soldiers, and the executive answered “yes.” In addition, a company scientist acknowledged an internal memo that said that the product had problems unless the user instructions were revised.
3M’s defense is that the earplugs were manufactured to the military’s specifications, and therefore the company should not be held liable for any defect. The company also denies that the product was designed defectively. In July of 2018, 3M agreed to pay the government $9.1 million to resolve claims that it knowingly sold the defective earplugs to the military without disclosing the defects that hampered the product’s effectiveness.
Contact a Product Liability Attorney
If you are a veteran who suffered hearing loss and/or tinnitus after using 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs, you should have your case evaluated by an experienced product liability attorney as soon as possible. Gregg Goldfarb has been helping the injured for over 20 years. Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.