3M Combat Arms Earplugs were standard issue to U.S. military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015, according to Stars and Stripes. The earplugs featured a dual-ended design, intended to be worn as traditional earplugs during normal conditions or flipped over during battle to protect the ears from gunshots and explosions.
However, 3M settled a whistleblower lawsuit in July 2018 alleging it sold the earplugs too short for proper insertion, which caused ”damaging sounds to enter the ear canal.” The company agreed to pay more than $9 million in damages without having to admit guilt, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” said Chad Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division.
Hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ most common service-related disabilities, with 1,084,069 and 1,610,911 cases annually, according to the 2016 Annual Benefits Report.
The whistleblower lawsuit was filed by Moldex-Metric, Inc., a 3M competitor, in May 2016 under the False Claims Act. The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government in cases of fraud.
You may be entitled to compensation through the filing of a lawsuit if you or a loved one:
- Served in the U.S. Military anytime between 2003 and 2015
- Were issued earplugs during service
- Suffer from permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus