Defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Caused Hearing Loss and Tinnitus in Service Men and Women
Hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the leading disabilities suffered by military personnel. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 1,786,980 veterans received disability benefits for tinnitus, and 1,157,585 received payments for hearing loss in 2017. Unfortunately, many of our servicemen and women are suffering from these life-altering disabilities because of the earplugs they wore while they served. If you developed hearing loss or tinnitus and wore 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2, you may have a claim against their manufacturer for compensation. Contact the personal injury team of Chris Hudson & Associates to schedule your FREE consultation to discuss your case further.
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, there were 1.79 million disability compensation recipients for tinnitus and 1.16 million compensation recipients for hearing loss in 2017. Tinnitus and hearing loss were the top two conditions among veterans at VA centers.
A 2015 study found that 79.1 percent of the 91 tinnitus sufferers had a diagnosis of anxiety, 59.3 percent had depression, and 58.2 percent suffered from both anxiety and depression. The Hearing Health Foundation stated that the VA bought one in every five hearing aids sold in the United States in 2010.
What Are Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs?
The 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were sold to the military by the 3M Company and were used by military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2015. These earplugs were designed to be used in two ways. They could be inserted one way to enable a wearer to hear speech and another way to provide additional hearing protection.
Unfortunately, these earplugs did not work as promised. They were too short to be properly inserted and could gradually and subtly loosen when being worn. As a result, military personnel were unknowingly exposed to noise levels that could permanently damage their hearing.
Hearing Problems That May Be Related To Wearing Wearing 3M Earplugs
Exposure to loud noises, which is common in combat areas, is a significant cause of hearing loss. Servicemen and women who wore defective 3M Defective Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2 have developed two types of hearing problems.
Tinnitus is a condition in which the sufferer hears ringing or other noises in their head when no outside noises are present. Ringing, buzzing, clicking, and roaring are some of the symptoms of this condition. The noise can vary in pitch and volume and can be heard periodically or all the time. It can also worsen as individuals get older. Complications include loss of sleep, inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Tinnitus can worsen with age, but it can also improve with treatment. There are two kinds of tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the more common kind in which tinnitus can only be heard by the affected person, and objective tinnitus is a more rare condition in which the doctor can hear the tinnitus. Tinnitus can cause several other problems, including possible fatigue, sleep problems, memory issues, depression, anxiety, or irritability.
Servicemen and women have also suffered hearing loss as a result of wearing these defective earplugs. Surgery and medication can help restore some of their hearing, but others will suffer permanent hearing loss. This can limit their ability to work, to communicate with family and friends, and cause mental health problems, such as depression.
3M Settles Justice Department Lawsuit for $9.1 Million
A whistleblower lawsuit was brought against 3M, the manufacturer of dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, claiming that they sold these earplugs to the military knowing they could loosen and failed to warn of the dangers of tinnitus and hearing loss. It was also alleged that 3M manipulated the test results to make it appear that the earplugs met military standards.
In July 2018, 3M settled the lawsuit with the Department of Justice for $9.1 million without admitting liability. These funds are to be paid to reimburse the government for what it spent on these defective earplugs. It will not compensate military personnel who suffered hearing damage due to wearing them.
The settlement resolved allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. The United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short to be correctly inserted into users’ ears and that they could also loosen and not perform well for specific individuals without disclosing the design defect to the military.
The original lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government when they believe that defendants submitted false claims for government funds and to share in any recovery. The whistleblower was awarded $1.911 million in this case.
Your Right to Compensation If You Suffered Hearing Loss or Tinnitus After Wearing 3M Earplugs
If you were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq from 2003 to 2015 and were issued the 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs Version 2, you may have a product liability claim against 3M if you have experienced hearing loss or tinnitus. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. This may be true even if you receive disability benefits for this condition.
To get the compensation you deserve, you will need to file a civil lawsuit against 3M. Product liability claims are complicated, and 3M is a large corporation that will fight hard to deny or reduce claims brought by other military personnel and you.
Are you a member of the U.S. military who lives in Georgia or South Carolina? The experienced personal injury attorneys of Chris Hudson & Associates are here to help you prove that your dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs were defective and that 3M knew this when they sold them to the U.S. government.
Will filing an army earplug lawsuit affect my VA disability compensation?
The effect of a personal injury award will depend on the type of benefits you are receiving. If you are receiving veterans’ disability compensation, then the amount a veteran receives is not based on their need and will not be impacted by any settlement. Veterans pension benefits, on the other hand, are needs-based benefits. A veteran’s assets and income can affect their eligibility, so a settlement could indeed jeopardize the pension benefits.
These matters can be further complicated depending on whether a settlement is a lump sum amount or a structured settlement. The Federal Medical Care Recovery Act (FMCRA) also gives the federal government the right to recover medical expenses incurred for the medical care of an injured beneficiary when there is a liable third party. The FMCRA does provide an exception for service-connected disabilities, so the VA or TRICARE may waive recovery rights or seek a compromise.
What is the difference between a class action lawsuit and multidistrict litigation (MDL)?
A class-action lawsuit is a single legal action that involves a large group of similarly affected plaintiffs, and a court needs to certify the class. Class members are bound by the outcome of their case and are prohibited from filing individual claims unless they opt-out of the class.
In MDL, multiple plaintiffs have similar claims but all lawsuits are handled in front of a single judge in a single venue. MDL aims to reduce stress on the court and keep the process as streamlined as possible. Each plaintiff retains control of their individual case in MDL. Whereas an award in a class-action lawsuit is split equally by all of the plaintiffs, MDL allows for each plaintiff to obtain their own individual award.
Determining whether class action or MDL will be best for you will depend on what your priorities are. Speak to an attorney about your case to help determine the best possible option for yourself.
Who is most at risk for developing hearing loss from 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
The members of the military who are most at risk of hearing loss are usually those who are most often exposed to several kinds of high-impact noises, often in conflict areas. Noises caused by explosives, weaponry, or the loud engines of helicopters, tanks, or other vehicles can all be possible threats to hearing. Even when wearing the 3M earplugs, the defective plugs do not afford sufficient protection, and a member of the military could be susceptible to the sudden loss of hearing in such scenarios.
Are You Experiencing Tinnitus Or Hearing Loss And Wore 3M Earplugs?
We will aggressively fight for the compensation you deserve. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will only owe us fees when we settle your case or win at a jury trial.
To learn more about your legal rights, contact us online or call our office at 888-991-8011 or to schedule your free consultation today.