Discovery Moving Forward in 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Litigation

Published on August 30, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

Thousands of lawsuits involving the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, continue to move forward in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit Conference

The litigation convened its most recent Case Management Conference on August 26th.   According to an Order issued the following day, the parties indicated they had made significant progress in regards to discovery. In fact, Defendants are currently on track to meet the September 30th deadline to substantially complete their document production.

However, the parties reported they were also conferring on potential issue involving documents related to the various predecessor and successor versions of CAEv2. The Court directed both sides to file simultaneous briefs by September 6th if they are unable to resolve those issues by August 30th.

So far, Defendants have produced all but four of the depositions Plaintiffs sought from the Moldex case, a whistleblower lawsuit involving 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, that resulted in a $9.1 million settlement with the federal government. The parties were also given until August 30th to resolve the objections, or submit briefs on the matter by September 6th.

Finally, the Court scheduled upcoming Case Management Conferences through the end of the year as follows:

  • September, 27, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
  • October 25, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
  • November 22, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
  • December 16, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs: What are They?

All of the lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Florida were filed on behalf of United States military veterans who allegedly developed permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus due to 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2.

From 2002 through 2015, CAEv2 were standard issue for all United States active duty military personnel serving in combat zones around the world. The earplugs were initially developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which was acquired by the 3M Company in 2008.

Combat Arms Earplugs were duel-ended, and could be inserted in either the open or blocked position. The yellow end was designed to protect the eardrum from gunfire, explosions, and other concussive sounds typically encountered in combat, but allowed the wearer to hear low-level sounds, such as battle commands. The green end performed like a traditional earplug, blocking all sound.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit Allegations

Plaintiffs claim that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were too short to fit properly and could loosen without the wearer even noticing, leaving users unprotected on the battlefield.

They further charge that Aearo Technologies was aware of these defects by 2000, two years before winning an exclusive contract to supply military earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. However, rather than correct the issues or notify the agency of the problems, the complaints charge that Aearo and the 3M Company manipulated testing and falsely certified that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, met all standards of the military contract.

These allegations echo those put forth in the Moldex whistleblower lawsuit, which settled in July 2018. Despite the settlement, the 3M Company continues to deny that CAEv2 were in any way defective, and has yet to compensate any veterans who used the earplugs.

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