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.”