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Lawsuits Against 3M for Defective Combat Earplugs

by John Gomez | Last Updated: March 28, 2019

GTA is actively pursuing cases for defective dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs manufactured by 3M (previously manufactured by Aearo). These earplugs were used by all branches of the military from approximately 2003 to 2015. While there are other different types of earplugs used by the military personnel during these years, these were the most commonly used earplugs and were most likely used by all military personnel for multiple activities from training exercises, shooting ranges, and during combat. Additionally, these earplugs were purchased by individual consumers unrelated to the military.

The dual-ended design was intended to allow for two different types of use. One side was intended to block all noises, and the other side allowed for some sound to come through – e.g., hearing a commander yell orders during combat.

The defect alleged is that the earplugs were designed too short to properly fit into the user’s ear causing the ear plugs to be ineffective. The result was hearing loss or tinnitus. Testing showed that the ear plugs do not provide the level of protection that was advertised by 3M. Aearo (company that designed and manufactured the product prior to 3M) did testing long ago that showed that the ear plugs did not adequately protect hearing as advertised. Some tests even showed that sounds were amplified. Further testing by Aearo showed that if the ear plugs were used and fitted in a specific way by folding back the flanges prior to inserting, then the product would meet the advertised standards. However, this very important fitting information was not provided in instructions for the product. Due to this, thousands of users experienced partial or full hearing loss and/or tinnitus in one or both ears.

There are over 50 cases filed around the country. GTA filed its first case last week in federal court’s Southern District of California. On March 28th, a Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) hearing was held in Washington D.C. where the judicial panel heard oral arguments from several plaintiff’s attorneys and 3M’s attorneys in order to determine if these cases will be coordinated. At this time, we are awaiting the JPML’s decision on whether the cases will be coordinated and in which federal court they will be coordinated.

For more information, watch the Channel 10 news story featuring GTA’s client Kevin Alicie. If you or someone you know might have used these earplugs and has or may have hearing loss or tinnitus, contact Attorney Jessica Williams at 619-237-3490 or 3mearplugs@thegomezfirm.com.

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