Posted On June 15, 2022 Personal Injury
June 15, 2022 – Service members face an incredible number of risks each day they get up and report for duty. While many of these dangers are immediate, others are much more long-term. For example, thousands of veterans and former service members have filed lawsuits and joined existing class action lawsuits against the manufacturing giant 3M based on claims that the company’s ear plugs failed to provide the protection they promised. In the most recent 3M defective earplug lawsuit to reach a verdict, a Florida jury awarded $77.5 million in damages, including $72.5 million in punitive damages, to a former soldier who filed a claim alleging that his hearing loss resulted from defective 3M earplugs.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, we may be able to help you obtain compensation. Our product liability lawyers are actively investigating cases of tinnitus claims on behalf of service members. As a part of our investigation, we are scheduling free consultations for those who suffered hearing loss or other effects of tinnitus after returning from duty. We can help you understand your rights and explain your legal options.
Service members are confronted by many potential threats to their hearing, whether it’s in combat or while they are working alongside heavy machinery. Tinnitus is one of the more common hearing-related conditions among military veterans. While there are several causes for tinnitus, many cases arise out of exposure to loud noises and head trauma. For some, tinnitus goes away on its own. However, for others, the intensity of the condition can become debilitating. According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, nearly 1.3 million veterans secured disability compensation for hearing loss, and over 2.3 million received compensation for tinnitus.
In response to the growing concern of hearing loss and tinnitus among service members, the United States government started to provide earplugs to service members to protect their hearing. Initially, the military contracted with Aearo Technologies to produce the Combat Arms version 2 (CAEv2) earplugs. Subsequently, 3M acquired Aearo, taking over the earplug contract.
However, more recently, service members have been registering their concerns over later-diagnosed tinnitus. While 3M claims that its earplugs provide maximum protection from loud noises while allowing the wearer to hear quieter sounds, both service members and several juries across the country disagree.
The first 3M earplug case heard by a jury involved three plaintiffs who claimed that 3M earplugs caused their hearing loss. The trial ended in a $7.1 million verdict for the plaintiffs. Since then, there have been more than a dozen other 3M earplug claims heard by juries; over 60 percent have resulted in favorable verdicts for the service members.
In the most recent case, which came down just a few weeks ago, a veteran claimed that he suffered bilateral tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss due to the defective 3M earplugs. He was exposed to noise from various weapons while serving abroad between 2005 and 2009 and then again as a reservist until 2011. The jury agreed, awarding him $5 million in compensatory damages and $72.5 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are those specifically intended to punish a company for its especially egregious behavior in hopes of deterring others from engaging in similar conduct.
So far, the 3m earplug cases that have gone to trial have been “bellwether” cases. These are select cases that proceed in advance of a class action lawsuit. Bellwether cases allow both sides, as well as the judge, to familiarize themselves with the issues that are likely to come up. However, one of the considerations when selecting a bellwether case is that the plaintiff should be a good representative of the class of plaintiffs. Thus, the veteran who secured $77.5 million in damages was not an unusual case by any means.
The door is still open to join a 3M class action lawsuit. However, it is unclear how much longer that will remain to be the case. If you are interested in learning more about pursuing compensation for tinnitus or other damages you sustained as a result of 3M earplugs, reach out to an experienced 3M earplug lawyer at Console & Associates, P.C. at 866-778-5500. We can discuss what happened, answer your questions, and offer you guidance about how you may be able to pursue a claim against 3M.