3M Military Earplug Manufacturer Won A Lawsuit Against Hearing-Damaged Veterans
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
On May 28th, 2021, a federal jury in Florida decided that Minnesota-based earplug manufacturer 3M was not liable for hearing damage suffered by Veteran Dustin McCombs. This case was the second of three bellwether trials scheduled to go to court this year over allegations that 3M’s earplugs were defective and deceptively sold to the U.S. military, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus for soldiers who used them in combat.
The first lawsuit, conversely, was won by the plaintiffs, in which a jury awarded $7.1 million to the three Veterans in question. The third and final bellwether trial is set for June 7th, after which the broader class of plaintiffs including nearly 236,000 Veterans who used the earplugs should have a better idea of what to expect from their class-action lawsuit, including timelines, costs, and more. Bellwether trials are individual cases selected out of a much broader class in order to test specific arguments and work toward resolution between the plaintiff and defendant.
In 2018, 3M settled with the federal government for over $9 million, but this money did not go to Veterans.
Although the company did not admit to any wrongdoing on their part, 3M did pay the Department of Justice over $9 million to settle whistleblower allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by concealing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the earplugs design. However, this was a federal lawsuit and dealt primarily with the business-to-government conduct, rather than addressing the injuries and resulting damages suffered by Veterans. 3M has not admitted to any liability for Veteran hearing damage as a result of their earplugs, but instead continues to insist that its products are safe and remain committed to vigorously defending their company and product.
Hearing damage could take the form of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
Hearing damage is a common injury among Veterans who spent time in combat and/or perform high-volume tasks for the military, such as piloting or flying in loud aircraft or working with loud machinery. Hearing loss or tinnitus may also occur when the ears are not properly protected while being exposed to loud noises and reverberations or concussions, like those which can occur from guns, explosions, and artillery during combat. If a Veteran is experiencing hearing loss and/or a ringing in the ears, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible to document the potential hearing damage as well as to work toward recovery. Hearing damage can seriously interfere with a person’s daily life, making it hard to converse with family and friends, take phone calls, remain focused, and feel overall present in the world around them.
DOD contractors and Veterans who served in the U.S. military or reserves from 2003 - 2015 may be eligible to join the claim.
If someone suspects their hearing damage might be related to their military service, it’s important to reach out to an otolaryngologist or Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) to discuss the situation. Alternatively, Veterans suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus can visit a VA medical center and inform them that they need to be tested for hearing loss as a result of defective earplugs used during combat. Whenever someone suffers an injury or debilitating condition as a result of another party’s negligence, it may be possible to seek compensation for the resulting damages, including medical bills, impairment of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
The results of the third bellwether lawsuit of 2021 are expected to be highly indicative of both the cost and outcome of the broader class-action lawsuit.