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The Minneapolis based 3M company manufactured the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs that were used by armed services personnel from the years 2003 to 2015 during combat and training exercises to defend soldier hearing from gunfire and explosions. Hearing issues are one of the most common issues suffered by veterans so ear protection is a serious worry for U.S. soldiers. Based on different scenarios, the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs were designed to offer two different levels of defense. The dual-ended plugs have a design that is easily noticeable. As their name implies, they were made of of two outward facing plugs, one green and one yellow.
While the yellow end was put inside the ear, this is recognized as Open Fire mode. This mode was created to provide normal hearing for peak situational awareness. It could allow staff to communicate, accept commands and listen to other important sounds on the combat field while continuing to provide defense from peak level noises like gunfire and explosions. This would have been the desired scenario in combat situations.
When the green part was placed inside the ear, this was known as Closed Protection mode. Constant Protection was created to stop all noise more thoroughly in order to offer full protection. According to 3M, this mode is for high level steady noise situations like those in tracked vehicles and air support. This level could have additionally been used in several standard training exercises and environments as well.
Claimed Hearing Risks
Combat Arms EarplugsManufactured by 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc, Dual Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) that were designed for military usage and used broadly by thousands of servicemen sent to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2015. The CAEV2 was produced to let two separate protection settings, Weapons Fire mode and Closed Protection mode. The applicable level is determined by which part of the earplug is inserted into the ear, yellow means Weapons Fire mode, green means Constant Protection mode. Weapons Fire mode was created to allow for hearing speaking and communicating yet still protecting against damaging sound levels from gunfire and explosions. The Constant Protection level blocked all noise more fully which was useful for soldiers operating in track vehicles, in air support or while regular training. Both settings were purported to stop sounds up to a certain level yet in recent litigation, the government has claimed that neither mode of the ear plug met the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that 3M claimed due to a non-reported design flaw.
$9.1 million Settlement Between 3M and the U.S. Government
During July of 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold the Combat Arms Earplugs v2 to the American military without admitting defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device. The lawsuit was originally placed in 2016 under the whistleblower part of the False Claims Act that allows private parties to sue for the federal government whenever they believe that a defendant has represented false claims for government funds. In this issue, the whistleblower was awarded $1,911,000 for their part in the lawsuit.
Per the Department of Justice press release, the settlement resolved claims that 3M violated the False Claims Act by marketing or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically,
earplug lawsuit . alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could come loose slightly and therefore didn’t work well for some individuals. It’s additionally alleged that this design defect was known to 3M but was not relayed the Department of Defense.
Injuries to Personnel
If the claims against 3M are correct, many personnel could have used faulty earplugs which did not defend them as the equipment was intended to. Based on the claimed design flaw, the earplugs may come loose while in the ear unknown to the soldier letting damaging sounds to find their way inside the ear. Dangerous noise levels may have serious and lasting effects including partial or total hearing loss, or tinnitus, a buzzing inside the ears. Hearing damage is one of the most frequent issues suffered by active duty and former servicemen. Tinnitus, which can be debilitating, is just as frequent. According to a research scientist with the VA Portland Healthcare System, last year there were over 1.6 million veterans looking for medical care for chronic tinnitus.
You Might be Eligible for Compensation
If you or a family member were given Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs during service in the military between 2003 and 2015, and have since suffered partial or total hearing damage or suffer from tinnitus, your scenario should be discussed with the Meneo Law Group to discover all options available to you.