Veterans suing 3M claiming defective earplugs caused hearing loss

Lawsuits are piling up. Hundreds of military veterans are filing suit against manufacturing company 3M. They claim their hearing loss was caused by defective ear plugs sold by the company.

Combat noise is a hazard for soldiers in training or fighting on the front lines on the ground, at sea and in the air. To protect their hearing, between 2003 and 2015 the United States government issued ‘dual ended combat arms ear plugs’ made by 3M, but hundreds of soldiers say the ear plugs didn’t work, and they’re paying the price.

“They were supposed to seal. Well, the veteran thought they were sealed. They created the illusion that they were hearing fine in the ear when they weren’t,” said Attorney Jay Miller, of the Peter Angelos Law Firm.

Miller filed its first lawsuit against 3M in February.

“We represent hundreds of veterans who have been traumatized for life who have permanent hearing loss,” Miller said.

The individual lawsuits come after 3M agreed to pay the U.S. government $9.1 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit last summer. The government claimed 3M knowingly sold the military defective ear plugs. There was no determination of liability.

Retired 1st Sgt. Matt Eversmann is not a party to the lawsuits, but has provided some expert advice on hearing loss. He knows what it’s like. He constantly turns up the sound on the television to hear it.

The decorated war hero was portrayed by Josh Hartnett in the 2001 film “Black Hawk Down.” The battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 3, 1993, is where Eversmann says he lost 60% of his hearing. He said they only had old-fashioned foam earplugs then. As a result, he wears hearing aids in both ears.

Eversmann is a motivational speaker and advocates for veterans on the issue of hearing loss.

“The battlefield is a loud place. It’s a loud place to work. Gunfire is loud. Machine-gun fire is loud. Bombs are loud. Mortars are loud and (improvised explosive devices) are loud, to the point where your molars will shake at the sounds you experience on the battlefield,” Eversmann said.

11 News contacted 3M about the allegations. The company replied with a statement, saying, “3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world and their safety is our priority. We deny this product was defectively designed and will defend against the allegations in these lawsuits through the legal process.”

Soldiers report hearing loss and tinnitus, as well.

“It’s constant, annoying, like bad staticky radio turned up really loud on both sides of your head,” Eversmann said.

Dr. David Eisenman, associate professor and director of the Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the area that houses the cochlea is an essential organ for hearing. He said damage to the area is not always evident right away, and can initially be apparent.

“Years down the line, there are changes that were initiated at the first bout of noise damage that will then present progressive loss where you have difficulty understanding people,” Eisenman said.

Eversmann says he was given the 3M ear plugs during service between 2006 and 2007, but since his hearing was already damaged in 1993, he felt there was no point in suing. But he believes it is important to encourage others to get involved.

“If they wore the defective hearing protection, they should throw their hat in this and have it investigated, because all you’re going to get from the VA, at best, is a new hearing aid,” Eversmann said.

Source: WBALTV

Soldier from Portland sues 3M over defective earplugs

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A soldier from Portland, Michigan is suing the 3M company, saying that the earplugs the company provided to the military were defective.

Gale Jugovich entered the military in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2006. During that time, the military distributed 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs to Jugovich and other military personnel. During that time, soldiers were in close proximity to rocket and ammunition fire, both in combat and in training. Jugovich claims that he has suffered severe tinnitus and partial hearing loss.

The earplugs were made by Aearo, which was taken over by 3M in 2008. The lawsuit says that 3M assumed liability from Aearo in the takeover.

The earplugs were made so they could be worn in two ways: one to block out all noise and the other to block out loud noises, but would allow some quieter sounds, like conversation, to be heard. The lawsuit says that the company manipulated testing results to make the earplugs appear more effective than they were and they falsely sold the product to the military.

The lawsuit does not list an estimated amount of damages.

Source: FOX17

Veterans file lawsuit over defective ear plugs

A group of veterans who now suffer from hearing loss and other hearing disabilities are working to take legal action against the company that made defective ear plugs they used in battle. 

The billion-dollar company 3M provided the ear plugs to the United States Government for 13 years to give to men and women serving in the armed forces.

More than two million men and women in the armed forces have served tours of duty where their bodies strenuous physical activity.

In most instances, veterans found themselves around loud gun fire and explosions. To protect their hearing the government gave soldiers those ear plugs.

Attorney Arron Neglia served four years in the U.S. Army. He told FOX13 those ear plugs are the reason many veterans have lost their hearing.

“They were mandated that we had to wear them to protect us from blasts, gun fire,” Neglia said.

Neglia and attorney Murray Wells are representing several other veterans who suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus.

Between 2003 and 2015 the United States government contracted the Minneapolis-based company 3M to make the plugs for soldiers.

In 2018, the Department of Justice announced a settlement with 3M for more than $9 million to resolve allegations that 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the United States Armed Forces.

“They knew this was a bad product and they sold it to our armed services and as a result people are having very severe problems. The VA is saturated with people with hearing issues,” Wells said.

According to the Veteran Affairs website, in 2014 more than 900,000 veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss.

Nearly 1.3 million received compensation for tinnitus.

“It’s an endless thing and it’s sad because of the selfless service we signed up for – 3M was looking at their profits and not protecting our hearing,” Neglia said.

Source: Fox13

3M Earplug Lawsuit

Were you exposed to these potentially damaging noises while wearing Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs in service?

If you served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and suffered hearing loss or ear injury. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation

This action is against the manufacturer on behalf of injured military personnel who may be entitled to financial compensation.

640 Veteran Filed Lawsuits Target 3M for Knowingly Selling Military Defective Earplugs

The plaintiff presented evidence that 3M falsified testing results and marketing materials in order to sell their protective equipment to the U.S. military.
In July of 2018, combat equipment manufacturer 3M, agreed to pay a $9.1 million legal settlement in a case made against their dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2). However, they did so without admitting or accepting liability.

Moldex-Metric, a competitor of 3M, led the whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. government. Over many months of litigation, Moldex-Metric was able to prove that 3M knew the CAEv2 earplugs were too short, rendering them ineffective at defending users from the range of sound claimed by 3M.

Additionally, the plaintiff presented evidence that 3M falsified CAEv2 testing results and marketing materials in order to meet government standards and sell their protective equipment to the U.S. military. Because 3M directly violated the False Claims Act, Moldex-Metric had the evidence they needed to sue 3M and recoup losses for the government.

Although the settlement reimbursed the federal government, none of the award was distributed among the device users. Because of this, hundreds of personal injury lawsuits are now being filed by affected veterans.

Those involved in the lawsuit are seeking legal compensation after sustaining mild to severe symptoms of tinnitus or partial to complete deafness by presenting evidence that the devices were difficult to handle, insert in the ear canal, and prone to falling out. Many of those involved are eager to give their user testimony and tell their stories, especially as it corroborates with the evidence presented by Moldex-Metric.

640 veteran-filed lawsuits have been consolidated for multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the state of Florida. However, this location was a source for some conflict. 3M was quoted accusing the plaintiff’s lawyers of selecting a venue “with a large military presence or in front of a judge with military experience.”

The request for a centralized location is not unheard of, and in this case resulted in the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation assigning a Florida Judge, Casey M. Rodgers, with military experience and a record of MDL successes.

Unfortunately, many of those affected may be unaware that their hearing damage could have been caused by faulty protective equipment. However, considering the long service length of the standard issue earplugs, it is reasonable to predict that the number of lawsuits filed against 3M will continue to increase as awareness of these lawsuits reach the public.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has a number of programs designed to help those with combat injuries and long-term disabilities get the assistance and medical treatment they need. Service members are advised to get annual physical exams, have their hearing tested regularly, report any constant or intermittent hearing loss or pain, and report any new symptoms immediately.

Source: CitizenTruth

Judge In Abilify MDL Chosen To Hear 3M Military Earplug Lawsuits

U.S. federal Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida has been assigned by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to hear approximately 640 cases pending against 3M, the manufacturer of the military-grade Combat Arms Earplugs (CAE v2). Lawsuits against the manufacturer allege that the product, which may have left thousands of military veterans with hearing loss and permanent tinnitus, was known to be defective.

Judge Rodgers, a Pensacola native, was appointed by George W. Bush in November 2003. She is the first woman to have been appointed to Florida’s Northern District. No stranger to mass litigation, Judge Rodgers recently finished overseeing over 2,000 lawsuits against drugmakers Otsuka and Bristol-Meyers Squibb, makers of Abilify. Plaintiffs in that MDL claimed that taking Abilify (aripiprazole) caused them to engage in uncontrollable, compulsive and destructive behaviors. On February 26th, Judge Rodgers signed off on an order approving a global settlement in those cases.

Judge Rodgers is also a veteran, having served for 2 years in the U.S. Army. Furthermore, Pensacola, home of Florida’s Northern District, has historically had a significant military presence, dating back to 1700. This was a bone of contention for defendant 3M, whose lawyers accused plaintiffs of “forum shopping,” selecting venues “with a large military presence or in front of a judge with military experience.”

JPML chairperson Sarah Vance disagrees, focusing on Judge Rodgers’s judicial record. “[She] is an able jurist with experience in presiding over a large products liability MDL,” Vance told the Daily Business Review.

The product that is the cause of action in these cases was first developed by a company known as Aearo in the late 1990s. That company was taken over in a $1.2 billion buyout in 2008. Plaintiffs claim that Aearo was aware of design defects that caused the earplugs to come loose as far back as 2000. They further allege that Aearo had come up with a “quick fix” for the problem in order to secure military contracts after the defects were discovered – but 3M did not provide any of this information to users.

The number of plaintiffs in the MDL over the CAE v2 currently stands at 640. However, there are good indications that they will be joined by tens of thousands more. There may be as many as 800,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who have suffered hearing loss attributable to CAE v3 design defects. Treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) now costs the VA health care system over $1 billion a year.

3M, which settled similar allegations with the federal government last year for $9.1 million, denies any wrongdoing. In an email statement, a spokesperson for the company said, “3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world. We have a long history of serving the U.S. military, and continue to sell safety products to help our troops.”

Source: Trofire

San Diego veteran claims defective earplugs caused hearing issues

A San Diego veteran is suing 3M Company alleging earplugs he wore while in the military were defective.

He’s the latest in a series of lawsuits that have been filed against the company by service members across the country.

Kevin Alicie filed a lawsuit on Wednesday claiming he “used Defendant’s dangerously defective Dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs during tank firing, training firing, other live fire training, vehicle maintenance, and during other training and combat exercises.”

According to the lawsuit Alicie wore the earplugs while at Camp Pendleton and was first diagnosed with hearing loss in California. Alicie tells 10News during his military carrier he started having problems with his hearing. He’d hear ringing.

He says he didn’t think much about it until the ringing started to become more frequent.

“I mentioned it to the doctor when I was doing my final physical, and sure enough when they did that last hearing test they found that there was hearing loss,” Alicie said.

The lawsuit says 3M did not inform the military or Alicie that the earplugs were defective and failed to adequately warn that the earplugs did not meet the military’s sound requirements.

“The biggest defect is they don’t do what they are advertised to do,” said Alicie’s attorney John Gomez. “Essentially they are supposed to protect your ears and your hearing in proximity to loud sounds that can cause hearing loss or damage.”

Attorney John Gomez says the earplugs were standard issue in certain branches of the military between 2003 and 2015.

“Without question, I think tons of users-consumers and potential victims reside right here in San Diego County,” Gomez said.

According to a July 2018 press release from the United States Department of Justice, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it supplied the United States with defective dual-ended combat arms earplugs.

The release says, “the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.”

3M tells 10News it did not admit any wrongdoing and chose to settle with the Department of Justice to avoid the time and expense of litigation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for 3M wrote:

3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world and their safety is our priority. We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions. We deny this product was defectively designed and will defend against the allegations in these lawsuits through the legal process.

Source: 10News

Retired Fort Campbell Infantry Soldier Is The Latest To Sue 3M Over Earplugs And Hearing Damage

George Dooley served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division.

A retired Fort Campbell infantryman has joined hundreds of service members suing the maker of earplugs that were standard issue. George Dooley of Clarksville says he suffered hearing loss and has experienced chronic ringing in his ears.

Dooley says in the lawsuit that he used the Combat Arms earplugs while stationed at Fort Campbell, in Germany and when deployed to Iraq in 2006. He left the Army in 2008, and the lawsuit says the subsequent hearing problems have caused physical and emotional damage:

“The constant ringing in his ears interferes with his everyday conversations and affects his sleep. Frequently he has to talk loudly, have the TV playing, or have other noise on so he can try to cope with his tinnitus.”

The earplugs in question were made by 3M, which paid the Pentagon $9 million last year to resolve claims that it knew the earplugs were defective.

Nashville attorney Mark Chalos represents Dooley and says his firm, Leiff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, has asked to consolidate all of the cases in Middle Tennessee’s federal court.

“We understand that these earplugs were given to soldiers in the 101st Airborne, so it’s our understanding at this point that Fort Campbell is one of the more seriously impacted facilities in the United States Army,” Chalos says.

Many of the lawsuits are concentrated around large military installations. Attorneys in San Antonio are also vying to have the cases consolidated in their districts.

Service members used the specially-designed earplugs at firing ranges and while driving in noisy military vehicles. One end was supposed to muffle all sound and the other would block only the loudest concussions.

In a statement, 3M denies that the product was defectively designed and says it will defend the company through the legal process:

“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world and their safety is our priority. We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions.”

Source: NashvillePublicRadio

Local Military Service Members Sue 3M Over Faulty Earplugs

Basic Military Trainees take a baseline hearing assessment May 12, 2015, on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Joe Contreras served in the U.S. Army between 2000 and 2014. Before retiring as a staff sergeant, Contreras spent more than three years in combat zones: Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places.

Toward the end of his military career, Contreras suffered a constant noise in his ears, a worsening condition he could neither understand nor remedy. His hearing deteriorated.

An Army doctor diagnosed Contreras with tinnitus and hearing loss. While Contreras tends to medical treatment for his hearing problems, he hopes to get some justice.

He’s one of 18 active-duty and retired servicemen and women named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that local law firm Phipps Deacon Purnell filed Friday against Minnesota-based 3M, which manufactured the earplugs. Filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, the lawsuit claims 3M knowingly provided defective earplugs to U.S. soldiers, resulting in serious and permanent injuries.

“Putting my life on the line to defend my country is something I would do all over again but having my hearing damaged by a contractor looking to profit is the ultimate disrespect,” Contreras said in a press release from the law firm.

Contreras is one of six plaintiffs who live in Bexar County. Another five plaintiffs hail from Nueces County, whose governmental home is in Corpus Christi, and the rest are from other parts of the country.

The suit alleges that dual-ended earplugs made by 3M for military use were too short to be properly inserted into users’ ears. A copy of the lawsuit – which also names Aearo Technologies, a 3M subsidiary that originally developed the earplugs – can be found here.

3M’s Combat Arms plugs would gradually loosen and leave users vulnerable to hearing loss or damage, the suit claims. Victims are now enduring a range of problems, from ringing in the ears or loss of balance to outright hearing loss.

“The consequences of 3M’s decision to knowingly provide the U.S. military with faulty ear protection is felt heavily in San Antonio, where more than 80,000 service members reside,” Senior Partner Martin Phipps said in the news release.

In a statement, 3M denied the allegations.

“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world, and their safety is our priority,” the statement reads. “We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions.”

Plaintiffs in this suit seek financial damages that would cover lost work earnings and related medical expenses.

At a hearing later this month in Washington, D.C., a panel of seven federal judges will determine the most suitable venue to hear the merits of the San Antonio-based suit.

“We believe San Antonio – Military City, USA – is a good venue to hear the case,” T.J. Mayes, junior partner with Phipps Deacon Purnell, told the Rivard Report.

The company in 2018 paid $9.1 million to the U.S. Department of Justice in order to resolve claims that it knowingly supplied the federal government with defective earplugs.

Earlier this year, two Houston law firms filed 100 lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Waco.

“3M knew that the earplugs did not meet the specifications and design criteria of the military, and instead of correcting the flaws, it chose to conceal the problem,” said Mo Aziz, a Houston-based attorney representing Army Sgt. Scott Rowe, in one of the suits.

The new San Antonio lawsuit alleges that 3M provided millions of faulty earplugs to the military from 2003 through 2015.

3M officials knew about issues with the earplugs as early as 2000 and yet withheld that information from the government as it entered into a contract to purchase the devices, documents allege.

The company discontinued the Combat Arms product in 2015, but defective pairs were not recalled and potentially remain in use, the lawsuit claims.

“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” said Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Division, in a release.

Source: TheRivardReport

Veterans’ lawsuit against 3M over military earplugs may be fought in SA

The ultimate venue for dozens of class action lawsuits filed by military veterans against Minnesota manufacturing giant 3M Co. alleging hearing damage related to defective earplugs while serving may end up in San Antonio.

Attorneys for military members in Bexar County, most of whom are retired commanders, captains and colonels, filed a lawsuit against 3M (NYSE:MMM) on March 8 seeking damages that include back pay and medical expenses after experiencing hearing loss, in addition to physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and other punitive damages.

In July 2018, 3M agreed to a settlement with the federal government for $9.1 million related to its Combat Arms earplugs, which were issued to military members from 2002 to 2013. The company admitted to no wrongdoing as part of the federal settlement.

The original manufacturer of the earplugs, which plaintiffs claim were too short to be effective on the battlefield, was Aearo Technologies Inc. — a company 3M acquired in 2008. The companies withheld information about the effectiveness of the earplugs, according to the allegations by the Department of Justice, which invoked enforcement under the False Claims Act. The whistleblower in the case was awarded $1.9 million.

3M denies that its products were faulty, according to a statement to the Business Journal.

“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world, and their safety is our priority. We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions,” according to the statement. “We deny this product was defectively designed and will defend against the allegations in these lawsuits through the legal process.”

Individual military members nationwide are seeking reimbursement from the manufacturer. Plaintiffs claim that Aearo knew the earplugs were defective as early as 2000. 3M discontinued the earplugs in 2015.

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Bexar County resident and U.S. Army veteran Joe Contreras, who served from 2000 to 2014, used the 3M earplugs while training at Fort Hood and while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the lawsuit. Contreras now has tinnitus, or constant ringing in the ears, and uses hearing aids, according to the lawsuit.

There are roughly 262,700 veterans in Texas who served in the military during the time frame of the class action lawsuit.

“We think that Military City USA is the proper venue for this case,” said TJ Mayes, a spokesman for San Antonio law firm Phipps Deacon Purnell PLLC. “We believe there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of service members who may have a claim. We believe the conduct was pretty egregious. They deliberately withheld information from the Pentagon.”

The following attorneys are representing plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit filed in Bexar County led by Martin Phipps of Phipps Deacon Purnell, in addition to Justin Rodriguez.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Julie Hasdorff of Hasdorff & Convery PC
Retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Boone, who served in the Texas Air National Guard, of Boone, Rocheleau & Rodriguez PLLC
Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Keith Gould with The Gould Law Firm
Retired Capt. Ted Lee, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves
Retired U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rolando Rios of the Law offices of Rolando Rios
Retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Freddy Ruiz, attorney at law
The Western District of Texas includes Joint Base San Antonio and Fort Hood in its jurisdiction. There are similar lawsuits pending in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The 3M’s stock was trading at about $207 per share midafternoon on March 13, down from its 52-week peak of $237 per share in mid-March 2018.

Source: Bizjournals