A man from Texas has become the latest United States veteran to file a lawsuit over allegedly defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, on January 22nd, retired Army Sergeant Scott Rowe was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his deployment, he was issued 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAV2), to protect his ear drums from explosions and other damaging concussive sounds. (Case No. Case 6:19-cv-00019-ADA-JCM)
However, Rowe claims the earplugs were defective and responsible for his permanent hearing loss, tinnitus and poor balance.
“I go to sleep with background noise just so that I’m able to sleep,” Rowe told KHOU-11 in Houston. “Headaches and dizziness happen all the time. These are the side effects to a company that chose not to do what they said they were going to do.
CAEv2 were developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which was granted an exclusive contract to supply Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States military in 2003. The contract was transferred to the 3M Company when it acquired Aero Technologies in 2008.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 featured a dual-end design, allowing a soldier to switch from side-to-side depending on the situation. One side functioned as a traditional earplug and blocked out all sound. The other enabled the user to hear low level sounds, such as normal speech, while protecting the ear drum from concussive sounds associated with combat situations.
From 2003 through 2015, the 3M Company and its predecessor sold millions of CAEv2 to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. The devices were then distributed to thousands of military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat zones throughout the world.
According to Rowe’s complaint, however, CAEv2 were designed too short to properly fit into the ear canal. In some individuals, this could lead to imperceptible loosening that exposed the user to an increased risk of permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and eardrum ruptures.
The Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuit further claims that 3M and Aero were aware of this defect by 2000. However, the companies withheld this information from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and failed to provide users with proper instructions for inserting the earplugs.
This not the first lawsuit to allege 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were defective.
In fact, just last week, a former Marine filed a similar complaint in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
According to his lawsuit, Andrew Bridges enlisted with the Marines in 2006 and was issued CAEv2 when he was deployed to Iraq in 2009. He was diagnosed with hearing loss in July 2010 and discharged from the Marines just a month later.
Last July, the 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuit prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The complaint was filed by a 3M competitor under the whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act, which allows a private individual or entity to sue a contractor for fraud committed against the United States government. If such a case is successful, the whistleblower is entitled to a portion of the government’s financial recovery.
The allegations set forth in the most recent 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuit filings echo those included in the federal whistleblower claim. However, the 3M company did not admit to any liability when it settled the case with Department of Justice and continues to deny that its military earplugs were defective or caused any injuries.