3M Earplug Lawsuit

Motley Rice is reviewing claims that supplier 3M Company knowingly manufactured and sold defective earplugs to the government for U.S. troops to use in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015, causing some to develop extensive and avoidable hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in ears) while fighting overseas.

As the U.S. military’s sole supplier of earplugs, 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies, Inc., sold an estimated 2 million Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) for use during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The devices, however, were allegedly defective in design and failed to meet government standards for hearing protection. As a result, it is believed an unknown number of service members developed hearing loss while serving overseas. Motley Rice medical device attorney Jonathan Orent is a member of the Science & Experts Subcommittee for multidistrict litigation filed for affected service members.

Contact an attorney

If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015, believe you’ve worn the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs and have been diagnosed with tinnitus or hearing loss as a result of time served in combat, you may contact Motley Rice attorney Jonathan Orent at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form  for more information or to discuss a potential claim.

3M earplugs lawsuit background

In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve a whistleblower claim alleging it violated the False Claims Act by selling the earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency despite knowing that the devices were prone to loosening, as they were too short to be properly inserted into users’ ears. 3M profited at the expense of the U.S. military by failing to disclose the defect, the U.S. government alleged in the qui tam lawsuit.

The earplugs, also known as “selective attenuation earplugs,” were designed to be worn two ways – the wearer could insert the plugs one way to hear speech and the other for increased noise protection. The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs looked like two inverted cones of differing colors, most often yellow and a color appearing dark green or black, connected by a stem.

According to the originally filed whistleblower claim, Aearo, which 3M acquired in 2008, was aware of the plug’s defects as early as 2000. The complaint also alleged that 3M and Aearo manipulated test results to appear to meet government standards.

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