Do you suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus? Did you serve in the armed forces between the years 2003 and 2015? Defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs could be the culprit, and you could be entitled to compensation, thanks to a large class action lawsuit set to go to trial early next year.
Hearing loss and tinnitus can be distressing, and have serious negative impacts on your quality of life. The good news is that thousands of veterans may be entitled to receive compensation for hearing loss and tinnitus caused by defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs, which were manufactured and sold by 3M to all branches of the military between 2003 and 2015. The class action lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans and active service members is shaping up to be one of the largest mass tort lawsuits in U.S. history.
Who Used the Defective Earplugs?
For 12 years 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs were standard issue safety equipment. Over that period of time, thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of military personnel used the faulty earplugs, which weren’t long enough and easily came loose, exposing their users to loud noise events. The design flaw rendered the earplugs mostly ineffective, but many earplug users never realized the problem, or only realized they weren’t working after permanent hearing damage had already been done.
3M Knew About the Problem
3M, according to internal emails unsealed by a judge in Florida, was aware of this problem from the beginning but never made their findings known to the U.S. military. In 2015 the military terminated its contract with 3M due to complaints about the ineffectiveness of the earplugs. A federal whistleblower brought 3M’s knowledge of the design flaws to the public’s attention in 2016. 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government to settle the False Claims Act whistleblower suit brought against them by a federal employee.
Military personnel began filing personal injury lawsuits in January 2019. Most veterans joining the class action lawsuit are between the ages of 30 and 49, and report some combination of hearing loss and tinnitus.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears. Symptoms vary from one person to the next, and can range from aggravating to profoundly disruptive, with side effects including mental distress, insomnia, and associated negative impacts.
Do I Qualify to Join the Class Action Suit?
Anyone who served in the armed forces between 2003 and 2015 may be entitled to compensation from 3M. To meet the criteria for the class action suit, the following should apply to you:
- Exposed to loud noise events, such as aircraft landings, guns and explosions
- Wore military-issued earplugs during service
- Diagnosed with hearing loss and/or tinnitus
Since 3M had an exclusive contract with the military, anyone who used military-issued earplugs would qualify.
To date, over 200,000 veterans and active servicemembers have filed claims, though it’s still early in the process and no cases have been settled yet. In the coming year a few cases will go to trial—these are known in legal parlance as bellwether trials—and from there a global settlement of all 3M earplug cases will be reached, likely within two or three years. The first trials were delayed by the pandemic, but are now definitively scheduled for April 2021.
What can I do if I suffered hearing loss after using military ear plugs?
If you have suffered hearing loss, tinnitus, or other ear injuries for any reason during your time as an active servicemember, you may be entitled to receive disability benefits and/or hearing aids from the VA. It’s important to note that even if you are seeking disability benefits for hearing loss or are already receiving benefits through the VA, you are still entitled to join the class action lawsuit against 3M. This will not affect your eligibility to receive veterans disability benefits through the VA.
Here at the Leak Veteran Services, we represent veterans seeking disability benefits. That’s what we do, and that’s all we do. If you wish to participate in the class action against 3M, visit this website for more information.