The U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement of $9 million with the American company 3M over the sale of their earplugs to the U.S. military. The problem arose when allegations came forward stating that not only were their Duel-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs faulty but that they may have been aware of these defects since as far back as 2000. Many U.S. veterans are now suffering from permanent health problems concerning their ears due to this issue and may decide to seek retribution personally.
After military personnel continued to report auditory damage such as tinnitus, a sensation of persistent ringing in the ears, and in some cases complete loss of hearing, 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were found to have a major flaw. These black and yellow earplugs were supposed to be designed to have two levels of protection while blocking out any noise coming from aircrafts, bombs, explosions, and guns. Upon inspection though, it was discovered that the end made to fit the ear canal was not long enough. This small miscalculation in size left just enough space for loud sounds to penetrate the ear canal, and cause irreversible damage.
These earplugs were first manufactured by Aero Technologies, and were later acquired by 3M. 3M, formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation that focuses on worker safety, health care, and common goods. 3M had a government contract to provide a safe product to those who serve in the military, and due to these allegations may have failed to do so. Some are claiming that both 3M, as well as their predecessor, knew about the deficiency of their product, and decided against informing the military of it when they signed their contract with the Defense Logistics Agency.
From 2003 until 2015, men and women that have serviced diligently in the Army, Navy, and Air Force have had to depend on Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs to protect them, but this matter may have been going on for much longer. Whitney Butcher, who is an associate attorney and injury lawyer, states that, “There is evidence that the company knew that the product was faulty as far back as 2000,”
The Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division also shows his support in a press statement. He remarks, “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” and so the $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice is a step to resolving this matter.
While this $9.1 million settlement resolves matters with the U.S. DOJ on the earphone matter with 3M, it is also essential to note that their liability over the allegations was not determined. Those veterans who were personally impacted by Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs and have suffered auditory issues may still have grounds for a separate claim against the company. Whitney Butcher remarks on this matter as well, stating that “Although veterans who have been injured by the earplugs may have used them over a decade ago, they may still be eligible for compensation and can still file a lawsuit to claim compensation for loss, injuries, and medical bills,” Butcher said. “These types of injuries are common among veterans and can be difficult to prove, however, the recent lawsuit gives servicemen and women who may have suffered as a result of [Dual-Ended] Combat Arms Earplugs a solid ground to make their case.” So, looking ahead many veterans may choose to take action against 3M.