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North Carolina 3M Military Earplugs Lawsuit Attorney


Combat Arms Earplugs made for infantry by 3M allegedly have a dangerous design defect that can cause them to loosen while being worn. This defect may allow dangerous sound levels to enter the ear and cause hearing loss or damage over time.

Riddle & Brantley is evaluating these claims and seeking compensation for service men and women who have suffered from a serious hearing injury while using the earplugs during active military deployment or training.

Facts About the 3M Military Earplug Lawsuits

Between the years of 2003 and 2015, millions of service members were issued Combat Arms Earplugs for training and the battlefield by 3M Corporation. Unfortunately, millions are at risk of hearing injuries due to exposure to damaging sound levels when the earplugs would loosen unexpectedly. Those specifically impacted would have fought in the following battles:

  • War of Afghanistan
  • The Iraq War
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • War in Somalia
  • Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
  • American-led intervention in Libya (2011-part of Libyan Crisis)
  • American-led intervention in Iraq (2014 – 2017)
  • American-led Intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
  • Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
  • American Intervention in Libya (2015 to present)

3M sold over two million of these earplugs to the U.S. military for over a decade, knowing that properly made safety equipment is vital to personnel safety and combat readiness. The earplugs — which are dual-ended and can be used either as traditional earplugs or flipped into an “open” position to eliminate loud sounds — could loosen accidentally and lose their seal, failing to perform well for certain users.

3M allegedly knew about the defects and even manipulated false testing, yet prevented other companies from selling competing products to the military branches.

3M’s CAEv2 earplugs were standard equipment for certain branches of the military between 2003 and 2015, and the only available option for attenuation earplugs between 2003 and 2012.

As a result, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of soldiers suffered significant hearing loss, meaning not only did the military pay millions of dollars for defective equipment but the public will bear “enormous” costs from treating veterans with hearing damage.

The 4 Ds of the 3M Earplugs

The Defendant

The earplugs were developed and manufactured by Aearo Technologies and 3M acquired Aearo in 2008.  3M is a huge company and plays a major role in manufacturing and selling worker safety products, including hearing protection devices like this military earplug.  3M has manufacturing facilities in South Carolina.  South Carolina is home to several military bases, so this is a logical state of venue for the US Government to sue 3M.

The Earplug Device

The earplugs are dual-ended and are designed to provide infantry with a single set of earplugs to provide two crucial options to the

soldier.  They can be used in the closed/blocked position or the open position.  The closed position blocks sound similar to traditional earplugs.  The open or unblocked position is supposed to reduce

or block loud explosions common to the field of battle.  The open position has a very unique feature which allows the soldier to hear softer or quieter noises, particularly spoken words.  Allegedly the earplugs have a defect in their design.  The stem is too short.  Therefore, it is difficult to get a proper fit.  The soldier can’t get a tight seal which therefore permits the loud and dangerous sounds to penetrate or bypass the protection provided by the plugs.  Unfortunately, the soldier is not aware of this dangerous condition and can suffer hearing loss.

The Deception 

3M allegedly marketed the earplugs special features to allow infantry in the field to hear verbal commands from superiors and yet protect the soldiers’ hearing from harmful noise.  However, the flaw in the earplugs did not provide the promised protection. The stem was so short that it prevented a proper seal and fit in the ear.  Even though sources report that 3M knew of this defect, 3M continued to market and sell the earplugs to the military, mislead the military about its ineffective protection, and exposed millions of soldiers to potentially significant hearing loss.  The government alleged that 3M manipulated its testing procedures and fitting instructions to conceal their design defect. The government alleged that 3M knew of this defect for more than ten years without disclosing the defect to the government or military.  Shockingly, 3M failed to recall the earplugs and continued to sell them until late 2015 at which time 3M discontinued their manufacture.

The Damage 

Between 2003 and 2105, these dual ended Combat Arms earplugs have potentially exposed thousands of soldiers to harmful and dangerous noise which may result in serious hearing loss or tinnitus. Hearing loss is a huge healthcare issue for the Department of Veteran Affairs, the VA, as recent data indicates that as much as 52% of combat soldiers may suffer hearing loss.  This could possibly represent the largest ongoing medical cost for the military.

You can read the full complaint regarding this lawsuit here: 3M-Defective-Earplugs-Lawsuit-Complaint-3

In 2016, a whistleblower lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act , alleging that 3M knew that the earplugs were defective and fraudulently manipulated their testing and results.  In 2018, the lawsuit was settled by an agreement between 3M and the Department of Justice for $9.1 million dollars.

Does this fully compensate for all the damage done and being done when we consider that 2.2 million of these defective earplugs were sold to US military personnel in war zones across the globe?

How Riddle & Brantley Can Help

Hearing loss is one of the biggest issues facing military members today. Depression and anxiety are common in veterans who experience hearing loss, and these two conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life.

If you or someone you know served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and were diagnosed with or are suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus, after wearing 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, contact us today. Our personal injury attorneys at Riddle & Brantley are actively evaluating these claims and seeking just compensation for victims. 3M allegedly produced defective hearing protection equipment and failed to warn the military. Due to 3M’s conduct and behavior retired and active members or our military may be entitled to compensation to help pay for injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.

Military Bases

North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Texas and California are home to many military bases where soldiers and infantry trained and deployed to combat zones worldwide.  Fort Bragg near Raleigh, Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Cherry Point near Kinston, and Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro are located in North Carolina.  South Carolina is home to Shaw Air Force Base, Fort Jackson, the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, and the Marine Corp Recruiting Depot at Parris Island.  We welcome calls and inquiries from any of our current or past military members who have worn these ear plugs and suffered hearing loss.

Riddle & Brantley has offices in Jacksonville, Goldsboro, Kinston & Raleigh. If you are looking for an office near you, you can find directions here.

To learn more about your rights, call us at (800) 525-7111 or complete a free case review form today. Our team of representatives is available 24/7 to answer your questions and get you the help you deserve. The best part is there are no upfront costs or attorney fees unless we win your case. Don’t wait – contact us today.