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    The Minneapolis located 3M business made the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs that were employed by armed services staff during the period 2003 to 2015 during fighting and training exercises in order to guard soldier hearing from gunfire and explosions. Hearing problems are the most common issues suffered by veterans so hearing protection is a serious concern for American soldiers. Based on different scenarios, the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs were created to provide two different amounts of protection. The dual-ended plugs have a design that is very noticeable. As their name implies, they were made of of two outward facing earplugs, one green and one yellow.

    When the yellow end was put into the ear, this is called as Open Fire mode. This level was created to offer normal hearing for peak situational awareness. It could allow staff to communicate, accept commands and listen to other important sounds in the battlefield whilst still providing defense from top level sounds such as gunfire and explosions. This could have been the desired mode in combat situations.

    When

    combat earplugs was placed inside the ear, this was referred to as Closed Protection mode. Constant Protection was designed to block all noise more completely in order to provide complete defense. Per 3M, the mode is for high-level sustained noise scenarios like those in tracked vehicles and air support. This level may have additionally been used in several standard practice exercises and environments as well.

    Alleged Hearing Risks

    Combat Arms EarplugsManufactured by 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc, Dual Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were made for military usage and used broadly by thousands of personnel deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2015. The CAEV2 was designed to let two separate protection modes, Open Fire mode and Closed Protection mode. The applicable level is determined by which part of the plug is placed inside the ear, yellow for Weapons Fire mode, green for Constant Protection mode. Weapons Fire mode is designed to allow for hearing speaking and communicating yet maintaining protection from damaging sound levels from gunfire and explosions. The Constant Protection mode blocked all noise more completely which was useful for personnel operating in track vehicles, in air support or while regular training. Both settings were claimed to block sounds up to a certain standard yet in current litigation, the government has alleged that neither mode of the ear plug complied with the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that 3M claimed because of an unreported manufacturing error.

    $9.1 million Settlement Between 3M and the U.S. Government

    In July of 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that they knowingly sold the Combat Arms Earplugs v2 to the U.S. military without admitting defects that declined the effectiveness of the hearing defense device. The lawsuit was initially filed in 2016 under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act which permits private parties to sue for the federal government whenever they think that a defendant has made incorrect claims for government funds. In this case, the whistleblower was granted $1,911,000 for their part in the lawsuit.

    According to the Department of Justice press release, the settlement took care of allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by marketing or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. More specifically, the United States claimed that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the CAEv2 was too short for correct insertion into users’ ears and that the plugs might come loose imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain people. It’s additionally claimed that this design error was known to 3M but was not shared with the Department of Defense.

    Injuries to Soldiers

    If the allegations against 3M are true, many servicemen could have used error prone plugs that didn’t protect them as the product was intended to. Based on the alleged design error, the earplugs may loosen while in the ear unbeknownst to the soldier letting damaging noise to make their way into the ear. Harmful noise levels can have serious and permanent effects which include partial or total hearing loss, or tinnitus, a ringing inside the ears. Hearing damage is one of the most common afflictions suffered by active duty and former service personnel. Tinnitus, which could be debilitating, is just as prevalent. According to a research scientist with the VA Portland Healthcare System, last year there were over 1.6 million service personnel looking for medical care for chronic tinnitus.

    You Could be Eligible to Compensation

    If you or a loved one were given Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs during service in the military between 2003 and 2015, and have since suffered partial or total hearing loss or suffer from tinnitus, your situation should be discussed with the Meneo Law Group to discover all options available to you.