A Connecticut man has become one of the most recent military veterans to sue the 3M Company over allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplugs.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, on March 19th, Jonathan Frew served in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2007. He subsequently became a member of the Green Berets, where he served from 2007 to 2013.
Due to service-related hearing loss, Frew must now wear hearing aids in both ears. He was diagnosed while on active duty, and claims that 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) are solely responsible for his hearing disability. (Case 3:19-cv-00415-SRU)
Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were initially developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which was acquired by the 3M Company in 2008.
From 2003 through 2015, Aearo Technologies, and then 3M, held an exclusive contract to supply these earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. During that period, they were standard issue for all active duty military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat theaters around the world, as well as those undergoing live-fire training exercises stateside.
3M’s marketing material described Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, as a “revolutionary breakthrough in hearing protection for the military.” Their yellow end blocked gunfire, explosions, and other concussive noises that could damage the eardrum, but allowed the user to hear spoken commands and other low-level sounds on the battlefield. The earplugs’ green end blocked all sound.
According to Frew’s lawsuit, internal testing revealed that 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were dangerously defective as early as 2000. However, rather than remedy those defects or disclose the issues to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, the defendants falsely certified that CAEv2 met all standards of the military contract.
In 2018, the 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 billion to the federal government to resolve claims that it knowingly sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, to the United States Armed Forces. But so far, the company has not recalled the earplugs or taken any steps to compensate the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers who may have harmed due to their alleged defects.
At least 300 additional Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits have been filed against the 3M Company on behalf of military veterans throughout the United States.
In January, several plaintiffs asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralized all federally-filed hearing loss claims involving CAEv2 before a single judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Although there were only 8 such cases pending at that time, plaintiffs asserted that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs litigation would ultimately grow to include thousands of similar claims.
The Panel will take up the matter during its March 28th Hearing Session in Washington, D.C.