For eight years, Alex Ontkos served in the U.S. Army as an Army Ranger, but after his first deployment something went wrong.
“I started hearing a large ringing in my ear,” Ontkos said.
He says that came from using 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEV2) during his service.
“We received them all the time,” Ontkos said. “We went to the range and they gave us disposable ones. They issued them to us during basic training. They were unreliable and fell out all the time.”
He’s not alone. Thousands–even millions–of veterans and current active duty military are estimated to be impacted by the earplugs.
Ontkos, who currently works for Burnham law in Colorado Springs says that he has spoken to dozens of victims already. Including some who now have hearing aids in both ears.
“The 3M earplug lawsuit is due to a defective design,” said Todd Burnham, the founding partner of the Burnham Law Firm. “This isn’t a case against the military. The military was duped by 3M.”
Burnham Law in Colorado Springs represents Ontkos and 30 other former or current service members impacted by the faulty earplugs.
Burnham said internal documents within 3M show the company knew about the defective earplugs but did nothing to correct it.
“We employ military veterans,” Burnham said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just a case for us. It matters, and we genuinely care.”
Last year, 3M settled with the U.S. government and agreed to pay them $9.1 million for the faulty earplugs. However, Burnham said none of that money will be given to those living with hearing damage. The firm is working with other law firms across the country to get justice.
“These individual claims, individual lawsuits that are brought by us and several other firms we’re partnering with to go against 3M,” Burnham said.
But to Ontkos, the damage has already been done.
“The fact that they are issuing faulty equipment to people serving the country, to people risking their lives, it’s ridiculous,” Ontkos said.