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3M Reaches Settlement in Defective Combat Earplug Case

The 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government for selling defective earplugs which were standard-issued to thousands of service members deployed to the Middle East (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan) between 2003 and 2015. Moldex-Metric Inc.— another earplug manufacturer—was awarded $1.9 million for being the whistleblower.

The contractor—based out of Minnesota—sold its second version of the Combat Arms Earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without addressing the product’s defects. Despite settling the case, 3M did not admit liability.

Due to their inverted-cone-like shape, the earplugs were designed to be worn in two ways: one side offered increased noise protection and the other side was used in situations where soldiers could converse and listen to one another in a loud environment. According to the lawsuit, the earplugs’ stem was too short to go deep into the ear, loosening them and exposing soldiers to loud, harmful sounds.

In 2008, 3M acquired Aearo Technologies, who manufactured the defective Combat Arms Earplugs in 2000. The complaint alleged that both companies changed test results to make it seem like the product fulfilled government standards.

The allegations were originally made by Moldex-Metric Inc. in 2016. The company and 3M had previously been embroiled in legal disputes for several years. 3M accused Moldex of patent infringement regarding several earplug models, while Moldex countersued by accusing 3M of making false statements about earplug products released prior to the 3M versions.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said in the press releases that 3M is accused of having violated the False Claims Act, which enables private parties to sue on behalf of the government—if the defendants of the lawsuit obtained government funds by submitting false claims. Additionally, the law permits whistleblowers to recover funds from a successful lawsuit.

The Veterans Benefits Administration states tinnitus and hearing loss are the two most common service-related injuries—with over 1.6 million and nearly one million cases each year, respectively.

El Paso, TX, has one of the largest military bases in the country. At Farah Law Group, PLLC, we have helped injured servicemembers and veterans recover financial compensation for medical bills, ongoing treatment, lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering. Our El Paso personal injury attorneys understand that VA payments and disability insurance do not cover all expenses associated with hearing loss. We can review your case, determine all legal options, and help you recover the maximum settlement possible.

For more information about defective products in Texas, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.

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