A Michigan veteran who left the service with partial hearing loss and tinnitus has joined the fast-growing litigation over the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2.
Gale Jugovich, of Portland, Michigan, was a member of the U.S. Army from 2003 until 2015. He later served with the Army/National Guard until his medical retirement.
His service included a deployment to Iraq during 2005-2006. During that time, Jugovich was issued Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, to protect his eardrums from the sound of small arms, heavy artillery and rockets.
His lawsuit, which was recently filed in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan, claims that the 3M Company’s “defective and unsafe” military earplugs were responsible for Jurgovich’s hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as his inability to enjoy normal pleasures in life and his need for ongoing medical treatment.
“Aearo/3M knew at the time it bid for the initial (Indefinite Quantity Contract) that the Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs had dangerous design defects and did not adequately warn of the defects or adequately warn how to wear the earplugs,” the complaint states.
Aearo Technologies Inc. developed Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, and subsequently won an exclusive contract to supply the devices to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The contract passed to the 3M Company upon its acquisition of Aearo in 2008.
The reversible, dual-ended earplugs featured a yellow side that blocked damaging impact sounds typically encountered on the battlefield, but allowed the user to hear commands and other low-level noises. The earplugs’ green end performed like a traditional earplug, and blocked all sound.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were standard issue for all United States combat personnel serving in combat zones throughout the world from 2002 through 2015. During that time, they were also distributed to all servicemen and women participating in live-fire training exercises at military installations stateside and overseas.
Last July, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the 3M Company would pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the military.
Among other things, the government claimed that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were too short to fit properly and could loosen imperceptibly in some users, thus exposing the wearer to damaging impact sounds during combat. Federal prosecutors further claimed that Aearo Technologies, and later 3M, were aware of these defects by 2000, but falsified test results and wrongly certified that the earplugs met all standards of their military contract.
More than 600 veterans throughout the United States have filed similar lawsuits over 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2. The majority of these claims have been centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, for the purpose of coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings.
According to some legal experts, that litigation could eventually include thousands of similar claims.