Federal Court Establishes “Science Day” Parameters for 3M Military Earplugs Lawsuits

Published on July 31, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

Hundreds of lawsuits involving the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, are moving forward in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, were preparations continue for an upcoming ““Science Day”.”

3M Military Earplugs Lawsuit Allegations

Military veterans from across the United States have filed more than 1,200 3M military earplugs lawsuits in the Northern District of Florida.

All of the plaintiffs were issued Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, while on active duty between 2002 and 2015, in order to protect their eardrums from gunfire, explosions, and other concussive sounds normally encountered on the battlefield.

But according to their complaints, the 3M Company and its predecessor, Aero Technologies, Inc., knew the earplugs suffered from a significant design flaw and would not provide users with the appropriate level of protection. The plaintiffs further assert that this design flaw was responsible for their subsequent hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

3M Military Earplugs “Science Day” Parameters

The federal litigation will convene “Science Day” on August 26th, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

According to a Case Management Order dated July 29th, each of the parties will first have an opportunity to summarize their theory of the case (or theory of defense) in terms of the alleged product defect. They will then present general information on certain scientific aspects central to all 3M military earplugs lawsuits, including:

  • Sound properties and measurement
  • How sound is perceived by the human ear
  • The science of hearing loss
  • Hearing examination protocols, including methods for causal attribution of hearing loss
  • Hearing protection devices generally and their evolution
  • Considerations regarding selection of hearing protection devices
  • Standards and procedures for testing

Each side will be permitted to present up to three speakers. They are to submit a joint agenda to the Court by August 5th and disclose all planned speakers at least seven days before the proceeding.

The “Science Day” presentations will be off-the-record and won’t be used or admitted for any other purpose. Although a court reporter will transcribe the proceedings, an official transcript will not be included in the docket or otherwise made available.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Background

Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were initially developed by Aero Technologies, which won an exclusive contract to provide military earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The 3M Company took over the contract when it acquired Aero Technologies in 2008.

The earplugs were dual-ended, so wearers could select a level of hearing protection appropriate to their needs. The yellow side was supposed to protect the eardrum from damaging concussive sounds, but allowed the wearer to hear spoken commands and other low-level noises. The green end blocked all sound, similar to a traditional earplug.

Allegations put forth in 3M military earplugs lawsuits echo those contained in a whistleblower complaint filed by one of the company’s competitors in 2016, which ultimately resulted in a $9.1 million settlement with the federal government. However, the settlement agreement did not require the 3M Company to admit fault or pay any restitution to military personnel who may have been harmed by the allegedly defective earplugs.

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