3M Combat Arms Earplugs Court Establishes Phase I Discovery Schedule

Published on June 24, 2019 by Laurie Villanueva

The federal court overseeing hundreds of lawsuits filed  by veterans who blame 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, (CAEv2) for their service-related hearing impairments has established a schedule for Phase I Discovery.

According to a Case Management Order dated June 20th,  generic discovery directed to Defendants and non-parties commenced in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida. on June 19th. Plaintiffs were also to serve initial documents requests on Defendants by that date.

Once the early document exchange is substantially complete, (Deadline June 27th), 3M Combat Arms Earplugs defendants will have until September 30th to substantially complete document production.

By October 30, 2019, the parties must submit:

  • A status report concerning party and non-party discovery.
  • Proposals regarding dispositive motion practice.
  • Proposals for case specific discovery/bellwether process

3M Combat Arms Earplugs: A Brief History

From 2002 to 2015, CAEv2 were standard issue for all United States active duty military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat theaters around the world. The dual-ended, attenuated earplugs were initially developed by Aero Technologies, Inc., which won an exclusive contract to supply hearing protection to the U.S. Defense logistics agency in 2002.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 were reversible. The yellow end protected wearers from damaging concussive sounds common in combat, but allowed the user to hear commands and other low-level sounds. The green end performed like a traditional earplug, and could be worn when the user desired to block out all types of sound.

The 3M Company assumed responsibility for the CAEv2 military contract upon acquiring Aero Technologies in 2008.

Alleged Defects Rendered CAEv2 Ineffective in Combat

Close to 1,000 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits are currently pending in the Northern District of Florida, most of which were filed on behalf of military veterans who used the devices while on combat assignments from 2002 through 2015.

These plaintiffs claim that the CAEv2 design was too short to fit properly in some individuals and could imperceptibly loosen while in use. These alleged defects rendered the earplugs ineffective during combat, and purportedly caused an unknown number of active duty personnel to develop service-related hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

According to the complaints, Aearo Technologies actually became aware of the problems plaguing CAEv2 by 2000. Yet no corrective action was ever taken, nor were the issues ever disclose to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. Instead, Aearo employees manipulated test results so it would appear that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, met all of the standards stipulated by its military contract.

3M Pays $9.1 Million Combat Arms Earplugs Settlement

In July 2018, the 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve federal charges that it knowingly sold defective earplugs to the United States military for more than a decade.

The whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice put forth similar allegations regarding the defective nature of Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2. However, the 3M Company did not admit to any fault, nor was it required to compensate veterans who may have been harmed while using CAEv2 during combat situations.

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