All You Need to Know About the 3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuits (2023 Settlement Update)

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The recent $6 billion settlement by 3M, a major supplier of Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military, is a subject of significant concern and interest for both veterans and active-duty service members.

Many who served have reported hearing loss and other auditory issues, alleging that these problems were caused by the faulty design of these earplugs.

In light of this substantial legal development, this article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the settlement’s specifics, implications for affected individuals, and the subsequent steps one may consider taking.

The 3M earplug lawsuit involved over 250,000 US veterans suing the company 3M for their defective combat arms earplug that caused hearing loss, tinnitus and other related problems.

The Settlement at a Glance

The 3M Company has recently agreed to a staggering $6 billion settlement to resolve a myriad of lawsuits brought forth by U.S. service members.

These lawsuits primarily centered around allegations that 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs were defectively designed, leading to hearing loss or other severe auditory issues for those who used them during their service.

Breaking down the settlement, 3M will make payments consisting of $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in company stock.

These payments are scheduled to run through 2029.

Key Points:

  • Amount and Structure: $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in 3M stock.
  • Duration: Payments to be made through 2029.
  • Beneficiaries: Hundreds of thousands of veterans and active-duty service members who have used these earplugs and subsequently filed lawsuits.
  • Prior Settlements: It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time 3M has been under legal scrutiny for these earplugs. They had previously agreed to a $9.1 million settlement on behalf of the government.
  • Admission of Liability: Interestingly, 3M has stated that this agreement is not an admission of liability, asserting that the earplugs are “safe and effective when used properly.”

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into the specifics of the lawsuit, the allegations made by the service members, and what this settlement means for veterans and active-duty military personnel.

What is the 3M Earplug Lawsuit?

In 2016, a United States whistleblower lawsuit brought against 3M, alleged that the company manufactured and knowingly sold the defective earplug to military service members.

Moldex-Metric, Inc., a rival earplug manufacturer, filed the lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the dual-ended 3M Combat Arms earplugs were violating The False Claims Act.

Moldex claimed that the end of the 3M earplug was not long enough, and as a result sound could pass through, causing potential hearing damage. This

damage could be from the exposure to aircraft, gunfire and explosion sounds. The company claimed that the 3M Combat Arms earplugs were loose and did not offer the safety that the company claimed.

In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9,100,000 to resolve the claim. 

What are the 3M Earplugs and how do they work?

The Combat Arms Earplugs, version 2 (CAEv2) were originally developed by Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M Company in 2008. 

CAEv2 earplugs are designed with two inverted cones, olive and yellow, connected by a short stem.

The earplugs are described as non-linear, meaning that no electronic components are required, and reduces the occlusion effect (where the ear feels blocked). 

Wearing the plug in the ear with the olive colored end in the “blocked” position, like a regular earplug would be worn, blocks all sound.

When the yellow end is worn in the “unblocked” position, the plugs significantly reduce loud noises, like artillery fire and explosions.

Still, the wearer is able to hear quieter sounds if needed.

How do you qualify for an earplug lawsuit?

If you served as a veteran between 2003 and 2015, and utilized Dual-Ended 3M Combat Arms Earplugs on a regular basis, you are eligible to file a claim for the lawsuit, if diagnosed with hearing-related injuries or hearing loss. 

The records that are essential for the lawsuit include:

  • DD214 Form – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  • Veterans Administration (VA) Record
  • Military Active-Duty Record

Additionally, any medical evidence you may have, is also useful.

Over 20,000 cases were dropped from the class action suit because the plaintiffs failed to present certain records.

Does the 3M lawsuit affect VA disability benefits?

No. VA disability benefits are not based on your income or financial needs, therefore they will not be affected when you file for a 3M earplug lawsuit. 

If you have valid evidence that you sustained damages due to wearing these defective earplugs, you can apply for the lawsuit.

What is covered under the 3M earplugs lawsuit?

  • Medical bills related to hearing loss, tinnitus and associated illnesses
  • Lost wages as a result of hearing loss
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Punitive damages

What is the average payout for the lawsuit? 

The payout actually depends on a variety of factors, including the extent of hearing damage, the need for future care, if the veteran is able to earn a living or not, if their activities of daily living (ADL) or hobbies/other activities are affected, and if they suffered any psychological impacts, like PTSD or TBI

The predicted average lawsuit payout per expert 3M earplugs lawyers, is somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. 

Can you still join the 3M lawsuit?

While time is running out quickly, if you served between 2003-2015 and suffer from hearing loss or a related illness, you can still join the 3M Combat Arms Lawsuits. 

The 3M earplug litigation has become one of the largest examples of a mass tort (MDL) in U.S. history, and is an extremely important lawsuit regarding product liability in regards to veterans.

While it is impossible to predict the outcome for the 3M earplugs MDL, there is still hope that the company that has clearly harmed veterans with defective earplugs will face the consequences for their actions. 

If you are a claimant, be sure that your medical records indicate your injuries that you sustained.

Long-Term Implications and Broader Impact on the Veteran and Active-Duty Community

As veterans and active-duty personnel, you are the backbone of our nation’s defense.

The 3M earplug settlement serves not just as a means of individual compensation but also as a watershed moment for accountability and change.

This section explores the broader consequences and the path forward.

Setting a Precedent for Accountability

One of the most significant implications of the settlement is that it sets a precedent.

Manufacturers can no longer ignore their responsibility to provide safe and effective equipment to our servicemen and servicewomen.

This case serves as a cautionary tale, compelling other companies to adhere to higher quality standards or face legal repercussions.

Increasing Awareness of Auditory Health

The 3M case has sparked an elevated discussion about auditory health within the military.

With hearing loss and tinnitus being among the most common service-related disabilities, it’s crucial that both veterans and active-duty personnel are better educated about protecting their hearing and seeking timely treatment.

Strengthening Legal Framework

The lawsuit adds momentum to ongoing efforts to strengthen the legal framework protecting our armed forces.

Whether it’s in the realm of medical care, mental health services, or equipment safety, the 3M settlement opens the door for further advocacy and legal protections for those who serve.

Enhanced Oversight and Regulation

Moving forward, we can expect more rigorous oversight and regulations from both the Department of Defense and independent bodies.

This will ensure that future procurements undergo stringent testing and evaluation, significantly reducing the risk of defective equipment reaching our troops.

Building Community Solidarity

Last but not least, the settlement has galvanized the veteran and active-duty community.

Whether you’ve been personally affected or not, there’s a shared sense of victory and justice.

This collective experience strengthens the bonds within the community, making it more cohesive and mutually supportive.

In summary, the 3M earplug settlement is not just a legal case with financial implications; it’s a catalyst for meaningful changes that protect and empower our military community.

As we look toward the future, it serves as a pivotal reminder of the power of collective action, the importance of accountability, and the unbreakable spirit of those who serve.

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