Expertly Reviewed By: Serah Waweru, Esq., on April 13, 2023
You may be entitled to compensation if you served in the US military between 2003 and 2015 and suffer from hearing loss. Over the past few years, several 3M earplugs lawsuits have been filed against Minnesota-based company 3M for their alleged failure to disclose the alleged defective condition of their earplugs, which US military members widely used for over a decade.
Why Is 3M Being Sued?
The issue of the 3M’s defective earplugs was first raised in May 2016 by Moldex-Metric, Inc., their competitor. The whistleblower complaint, filed under the False Claims Act, alleges that 3M lied to the US government about the safety of the military earplugs.
The complaint claimed that the earplugs, used to protect service members from exposure to high levels of noise on the battlefield, were actually defective.
Further, the complaint against Aaero Technologies, the manufacturer acquired by 3M for $1.2 billion in 2008, alleged that they knew about the defective condition of the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, simply known as CAEv2. However, despite knowing about the earplug’s defective condition, 3M did not inform the US military about it.
As a result, over 200,000 service members were exposed to high levels of noise on the battlefield, thinking that the earplugs were fully-functional.
Then came the bombshell; internal emails showed that 3M officials bragged about billing the US government $7.63 per piece for the earplugs, which cost roughly 85 cents to produce. 3M then released an official response claiming that the cost included research and development costs.
According to various lawsuits filed against the company, the plaintiffs developed serious hearing problems, most notably tinnitus, characterized by a high ringing noise in one or both ears.
Some common symptoms of tinnitus include the following:
- High-pitched ringing sounds
- Low–pitched ringing
- Humming sounds
- Clicking sounds due to muscle constructions in the ear
In addition, common symptoms of military-related hearing damage include:
- Muffled speech
- Unintentional withdrawal from conversations
- Constant ear popping
- Difficulty comprehending other people’s speech
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty in concentration
These noises do not usually occur due to external triggers. Instead, you may experience them even when there is no sound around you at all.
A 2020 report from the Department of Veterans Benefits Administration showed that more than 1.3 million veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss and related complications. The study further revealed that over 2.3 Veterans were receiving compensation for tinnitus. This report just shows how serious hearing problems deriving from military service are and how important it is to ensure our troops are protected from the long-term effects of high noise exposure.
To recap, here are some key issues raised in the Moldex whistleblower complaint against 3M:
- The company knew that their earplugs were defective and not able to protect service members from high noise levels
- The company’s employees were also aware of the defective condition of their military-grade earplugs
- The company, despite knowing about the defects, failed to notify the users or the US government about it
- The company also made misleading noise reduction ratings regarding their earplugs
- The company used inaccurate testing methods to check the quality and efficiency of the earplugs
- Both 3M and Aaero Technologies knew about the earplug’s defects
- The company lied to the US government about the safety of the 3M earplugs
When you look closely at these allegations raised against 3M, they set the stage for a product liability claim against the company.
To put things into perspective, in a typical product liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following key elements:
- The product caused the injury
- The product’s defective condition
- The injuries sustained stemmed from the said product
- The consumer used the product as intended
Throughout the lawsuit, 3M has attempted various defenses to get themselves off the hook following an increasing number of cases filed against them.
For example, the government contractor defense gives contractors a particular degree of immunity from certain lawsuits when contracted by the government. This defense limits the contractor’s liability when producing military equipment or products per government specifications.
But in September 2022, Judge Richard M. Gergel dismissed the defense.
Earlier in August 2022, an Indiana bankruptcy judge had denied Aaero Technologies’ attempt to file for bankruptcy. The court ruled that the company, owned by 3M, had acted out of bad faith by attempting to file for bankruptcy and prevent further legal action against them.
The ruling meant the company would still face legal action for its defective earplugs.
However, in December 2022, 3M filed an appeal with a federal appeals court alleging ‘errors’ in the Indiana federal bankruptcy judge ruling. The appeal basically claimed that 3M should have been allowed to escape mass tort lawsuits by allowing Aaero Technologies to file for bankruptcy.
3M cited the likes of Purdue Pharma LP, USA Gymnastics, Quigley Corp (owned by Pfizer), and many other subsidiaries that were allowed to file for bankruptcy following mass tort claims against them.
As of December 2022, the appeal is still being reviewed by the federal court.
Below, we have answered some common questions our readers have asked us about the 3M lawsuit. If you have more questions about 3M earplug lawsuits and updates, please let us know.
What Settlements Have Been Issued for the 3M Earplug Lawsuit So Far?
3M has been ordered to pay over $300 million to plaintiffs in 16 ‘bellwether trials.’
A bellwether trial is the kind of trial that is used to test how other similar trials could potentially turn out. The term ‘bellwether’ has been historically used to describe the leading sheep of a flock, with a bell hanging on its neck. In modern times, it describes the possible outcome of a particular situation, in this case, a lawsuit.
Lawyers usually use bellwether trials to gauge whether or not they’ll have a successful outcome in a particular case. If the legal action is successful, it paves the way for similar cases targeting that particular defendant.
How Can I Join the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit?
You may be eligible to join the 3M earplug lawsuit if you served in the US military and meet the following requirements:
- You were issued with the combat earplugs
- You were exposed to high noise levels at some point during your service in the military
- You have a hearing problem originating from your military service
- You used the combat earplugs for ear protection
Is the 3M Earplugs Lawsuit Worth It?
As it stands, the 3M earplug lawsuit may be worth it. The earlier you join the lawsuit, the better it is for you or your beloved to receive the compensation you may be entitled to. Keep in mind that if you suffered hearing loss or damage due to defective 3M earplugs, you would likely have huge medical bills to pay. Or, chances are you have already spent a fortune seeking treatment or managing the hearing problem.
But that’s not all – hearing loss can significantly change your life. For example, depending on the severity of your case, you may need hearing aids for a prolonged period of time or even for the rest of your life.
Hearing loss can also affect the quality of your life, leading to anxiety, depression, and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts. So, as it stands, seeking compensation for your damages seems like the most reasonable thing to do.
What Is the Average Payout for the 3M Earplugs Lawsuit?
3M has been ordered to pay around $300 million after 16 trials, a considerable amount of money given that the case is still ongoing. That’s what we know for now.
We will keep you updated with the latest 3M earplugs news and updates in 2013 as they develop.
On average, plaintiffs have been awarded around $50,000 from these trials. Keep in mind that this is just a rough estimate and not the amount you may be entitled to if you have a valid case against 3M.
To find out what you should expect if you win your case, contact an experienced product liability attorney for a case evaluation.
Will 3M Settle the Earplug Lawsuit?
Here’s the latest update on 3M earplug lawsuit settlement talks:
As mentioned, 3M has been ordered to settle some of these lawsuits even though they’re still fighting in court to avoid further liability. And given that there are over 200,000 plaintiffs (and the number is still growing), it is likely that the company will agree to settle the lawsuit once and for all.
How Much Will I Get From a 3M Combat Arms Lawsuit?
There’s no standard settlement for the 3M lawsuit. The amount of compensation you may be entitled to will depend on numerous factors, including but not limited to the following:
- The extent of your injuries
- Your medical expenses
- Whether you will need long-term care
- Whether the injury affected your ability to seek employment
- How the hearing loss affected your quality of life
- How hearing loss affects your mental health
How Much Is the Attorney Fees?
Attorney fees usually vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Some attorneys charge an hourly fee, while others charge a contingency fee; the latter is the most common.
The contingency pay structure allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for their damages and only settle the legal fees and other related expenses if they win the case. This means that their attorneys will not pocket anything if they do not win. It is also important to note that, in a contingent payment system, the attorney fees are usually pre-determined by a particular percentage of the total settlement amount, usually between 30 and 40 percent of the final settlement.
What Is the 3M Earplugs Lawsuit Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations for the 3M earplugs lawsuit varies from state to state. Generally, plaintiffs have between 2 to 6 years to file a claim. Contact an experienced product liability attorney to help determine whether you can still join the lawsuit.
What Is the Newest 3M Earplug Lawsuit Update Today?
To keep up with the newest 3M earplug lawsuit updates, please scroll to the bottom of this page. We’ll keep you constantly updated with the latest developments regarding this case.
Where Can I Find a 3M Earplug Claim Form?
You can get the 3M lawsuit earplugs form by contacting a product liability attorney if you or your beloved suffered tinnitus or hearing loss from using the 3M earplugs during military service between 2003 and 2015. The attorney will review your case and determine whether you have a valid reason to sue 3M. If your case is valid, the 3M earplug lawsuit attorney will walk you through the next steps.
Why Did the US Military Use the 3M Earplugs?
Unlike most earplugs on the market, the 3M earplugs were specifically designed to protect the ears from high-pitch noises that frequent a service member’s life in the military. Noises from large artilleries were known to cause serious damage to the eardrum, ultimately leading to partial or total hearing loss.
For this reason, the US military gave Aaero Technologies, a company owned by 3M, a contract to supply military-grade earplugs to the nation’s military. The goal was to manufacture and supply the kind of earplugs that shielded the wearer from high-pitch noises and enabled them to hear quieter sounds, such as communication with fellow servicemen, in noisy environments.
Is the 3m Earplug Lawsuit Real?
Yes, it is 100 percent real. If you think you might have a valid case against the manufacturer, contact a seasoned product liability attorney. You can also check out this 3M earplug lawsuit payout Reddit link to interact with real individuals discussing this topic.
What Is the Latest 3M Earplugs Lawsuit Status and News?
MARCH 2023 UPDATE
Judge Describes 3M’s Testing Methods as ‘Problematic’
The Judge presiding over the case has described 3M’s testing methods as ‘problematic’. It is worth mentioning that the company conducted its own independent tests on the defective earplugs, allowing them to dismiss most claims by the plaintiffs. The Judge particularly pointed out that 3M’s testing methods excluded two hearing frequencies most commonly affected by noise but also included two frequencies rarely impacted.
3M Claims Most Plaintiffs Didn’t Develop Hearing Problems
3M started the first day of the month by claiming that a majority of the 175,000 plaintiffs experienced normal hearing. The company cited data from the US Department of Defense.
FEBRUARY 2023 UPDATE
Judge Orders Presentation of Data
The Judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) related to 3M earplugs has arranged a special day called “Data Day” to be held on February 23, 2023. This will allow for the presentation of crucial information about the thousands of hearing loss claims currently pending against 3M in the litigation.
Motion to Dismiss Bankruptcy Proceeding Hearing Postponed to April
The Conference to discuss the recent Motion filed by the 3M plaintiffs to dismiss the Aearo Technologies bankruptcy proceedings will now be held in April 2023.
Status Conference Scheduled
The Bankruptcy Court set a conference for Monday, February 13, 2023, to discuss the Motion to Dismiss recently filed by the 3M earplug Multi-District Litigation plaintiffs.
A motion to dismiss is a legal filing made by one party in a lawsuit, in this case, the MDL plaintiffs, requesting that the court dismiss some or all of the claims made by the opposing party.
The Motion seeks an immediate dismissal of the Aearo Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed by the company to avoid liability.
JANUARY 2023 UPDATE
Federal Judge Shoots Down 3M’s Attempt to Avoid Liability
As of January 2, 2023, a federal judge ruled that 3M cannot avoid liability in earplug lawsuits. The Florida judge also said the company deserved the ‘harshest penalty’ for attempting to shift liability for hearing damage caused by the CAEv2 earplugs.
3M Bemoans High Legal Expenses
3M has reportedly spent more than $450 million so far in legal costs, according to court filings. In its bankruptcy filings, the company claimed that it spent $4.7 million a week in legal expenses.
3M has so far been ordered to pay a total of $300 million in jury awards over the defective earplugs supplied to US military members between 2005 and 2013.
Be sure to revisit this page for the latest 3M earplug lawsuit news and updates throughout 2023.