3M Earplug Lawsuits Moved to Florida’s Federal Court

By Hannah Smith - 08 Jul '19 09:51AM

U.S. District Court Judge Berle M. Schiller has transferred lawsuits pertaining to 3M's Combat-Arms Earplugs to a Florida federal court. The lawsuit alleges that 3M knew of the faulty earplugs that left many veterans hard of hearing and even deaf in many cases.

The federal government has already come to an agreement with 3M.

"The company agreed to pay the government $9.1 million to resolve allegations that they did not disclose the dangers of the earplugs to the government. However, the settlement did not assign liability to 3M," explains Ankin Law Office.

3M, a Minnesota-based company, is facing litigation nationwide due to the defective earplugs that were sold to the government between 2003 and 2015. Lawsuits allege that the earplugs were defective, allowing for loud sounds to penetrate the ears without warning. Veterans suffer from loss of balance, tinnitus, hearing loss and deafness as a result of the defects.

The lawsuits claim that the earplugs were known to have a defect which caused them to dislodge in the person's ears, allowing for sound to enter the ear canal. The defect was never repaired.

The $9.1 million settlement with the government was presented under the False Claims Act. A whistleblower brought the case against the company stating that the company knew of the defect all the way back in 2000, but the company falsified documentation approving them for military use.

3M started selling the earplugs to the government in large quantities starting in 2006. The government ordered 15.000 earplug packages annually, with each package containing 50 pairs of earplugs. Annual sales to the government totaled $9 million. The deal with the government lasted until 2015.

The earplugs have yet to be recalled, so there's a chance that many military members are still using the earplugs out in the field.

Retired military service members and active-duty military members are seeking punitive and compensatory damages as well as other costs from 3M. Lawsuits have been filed across the country.

3M purchased Aearo, the original manufacturer of the earplugs and took on all liability issues for the company's products as a result. 3M will rely on a case from 1988, Boyle v. United Technologies. The landmark case created what's called the "Boyle Test" which states that the manufacturer is not liable if the government approves of a product's specifications, the product met the approved specifications and the government was warned of potential dangers that the product poses.

Victims that have had their cases combined into the Florida federal court will not need to travel or live in Florida to pursue their claims.

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