A former Marine living with bilateral tinnitus and hearing loss in his right ear is suing the 3M Company, alleging Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were to blame for his service-related disabilities.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, on September 27th, Kevin Doyle enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993. At the time, he had no signs or symptoms of hearing loss or other hearing-related disorders. (Case No. 2:19-cv-12851)
By the time he was honorably discharged in 2010, Doyle had achieved the rank of Sargent and had become a certified weapons instructor.
While serving as a Marine, Doyle was issued 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, during pre-deployment training and his subsequent deployment to the Middle East. He also used the earplugs as a certified weapons instructor and various other combat roles.
Doyle was diagnosed with bilateral tinnitus and hearing loss in 2014.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which won an exclusive contract to provide military hearing protection to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The 3M Company took over that contract when it acquired Aearo in 2008.
From 2003 through 2015, Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, were standard issue for all United States military personnel during live-fire training exercises and combat deployments. The yellow end of the dual-ended earplugs was supposed to protect wearers from gunfire, explosions, and other damaging concussive sounds typically encountered in combat, while allowing the user to hear battle commands and other low-level sounds. The green end performed like a traditional earplug, and blocked all sound.
According to Doyle and thousands of other military veterans pursuing 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits, the devices were too short to fit certain individuals and could loosen without the wearer even noticing. As a result, users were unknowingly exposed to dangerous concussive sounds that ultimately damaged their hearing.
They further allege that Aero Technologies discovered these defects during testing in 2000. But instead of doing anything to correct or mitigate the problems, Aearo – and then 3M – falsely certified that Combat Arms Earplugs, Version, 2, met all the standards of the military contract.
In July 2018, the 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle similar allegations regarding Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, with the U.S. Department of Justice. However, 3M did not admit fault, nor did it take steps to compensate any former military personnel who may have been harmed by these alleged defects.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federally filed Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits before a single judge in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida. Nearly 2,220 cases were pending in the proceeding as of September 16th.