The federal court overseeing thousands of lawsuits alleging permanent hearing loss and tinnitus caused by the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs has adopted a Master Complaint.
About 2,200 cases involving Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, are currently undergoing coordinated pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida. All of the complaints claim that the military earplugs were defective and failed to protect active duty personnel from eardrum-damaging sounds encountered on the battlefield.
The Court adopted the Master Complaint, as well as a Short Form Complaint, on September 20th. The Master Complaint details all of the various allegations and requests for relief put forth by plaintiffs. The Short Form complaint will allow each plaintiff to specify which of those allegations and requests for relief they are asserting in their individual lawsuit.
The use of Master and Short Form Complaint will streamline the filing process and allow the parties to more easily coordinate, categorize, and evaluate Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits.
After developing Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, Aearo Technologies, Inc. won an exclusive contract to supply the military earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The contract passed to the 3M Company upon its acquisition of Aearo Technologies in 2008.
As a result of that contract, Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were standard issue for all active duty personnel serving in combat zones around the world from 2003 until they were discontinued in 2016. They were also used during live-fire training exercise conducted on United States’ military bases, both stateside and overseas.
Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were dual-ended, attenuated earplugs. When the green end was inserted, the devices blocked all sound in the manner of traditional earplugs. Inserting the yellow end ostensibly protected the wearer from gunfire, explosions, and other damaging concussive sounds, while still allowing battlefield commands and other low-level noises to be heard.
According to Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits, this design was actually defective and left thousands of servicemen and woman without adequate protection on the battlefield. Specifically, plaintiffs assert that the earplugs were too short to fit properly in certain individuals and could loosen without the wearer even noticing. As a result, countless active duty service members were allegedly exposed to an unacceptable risk of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus during combat operations.
The lawsuits further charge that Aearo Technologies and the 3M Company had known of these defects since 2000. But rather than correct the problems, disclose them to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, or provide users with instructions for mitigating the issues, the plaintiffs claim the defendants manipulated test results and falsely certified that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, met all standards of the military contract.
The complaints further point out that the 3M Company paid $9.1 million to settle similar allegations with the federal government in July 2019. However, 3M did not admit to any wrongdoing and continues to deny that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were in anyway defective.