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3M Faces Major Products Liability Suit for Defective Combat Earplugs


Hundreds of military veterans are claiming that 3M’s combat earplugs were defective and are reporting serious hearing loss. The volume of military veterans making this claim has inspired judges to consolidate the lawsuits into a class. 3M was hoping that the case would be heard in federal court in Minnesota where they are located, but the case is scheduled to be heard in Florida instead.

At question is whether or not 3M’s earplugs were defectively designed. The military purchased these earplugs to prevent serious hearing loss associated with combat situations. This includes gunfire and explosions. However, a number of individual soldiers filed complaints alleging that the 3M earplugs they were issued fail to protect their ears. Their damages include permanent hearing loss and constant tinnitus.

Are the Earplugs to Blame?

The facts of this case are relatively simple. Earplugs are not by themselves complex devices. Jurors would have a basic understanding of what the earplugs were designed to do and how they failed to do that. With multiple claims against 3M, the idea that these servicemen and women are lying is out of the question. The facts are simple:

  • The military ordered earplugs that would protect their soldier’s hearing in combat situations;
  • 3M designed these earplugs under the implied warranty that they were suited to that purpose;
  • The earplugs did not function as advertised.

Thus, 3M would be responsible, at least in part, for paying damages related to the soldiers’ injuries.

The case is slightly different from your typical products liability lawsuit. In this case, the defective product didn’t cause an injury but failed to prevent one. The question of negligence is a major issue. The lawsuit will attempt to uncover whether or not 3M conducted sufficient testing on the earplugs and whether or not they were marketed for the purpose of protecting hearing in combat.

Potential Defenses to This Claim

3M will attempt to lay the blame at the feet of the soldiers or their commanding officers. They will say something along the lines of ‘these earplugs were not being worn correctly’. If that’s the case, the plaintiffs can turn around and say that 3M failed to warn primary users concerning the proper use of their earplugs. This is made more difficult by the fact that earplugs are notoriously easy to use.

3M can then question whether or not the earplugs were being used and how they were being used. One would assume that, if the earplugs were defective, they would have a 100% failure rate as opposed to a few thousand soldiers. So then it must be established why the earplugs failed in these cases and why these individual soldiers experienced problems that other soldiers did not.

Talk to a Vero Beach Defective Products Attorney

If you’ve been injured by a defective product that failed to perform as advertised, you may be entitled to recoup money related to your medical expenses and other losses. Talk to the Vero Beach defective products attorneys at Vocelle & Berg, LLP to set up a free consultation today.