Hearing Loss Plaintiffs Seek to Compel Production of 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Samples

Published on December 10, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

More than 2,600 lawsuits that blame the 3M Company’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, for causing permanent hearing loss and tinnitus continue to move forward in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida.

Why are Plaintiffs Seeking 3M Military Earplugs Samples?

According to a Motion filed on December 5th, plaintiffs seek to compel the 3M Company to produce samples of Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, the earplugs at the center of their claims.

While these specific Combat Arms Earplugs were discontinued in 2016, plaintiffs believe 3M has at least 10,000 units in storage. They want their expert witnesses to examine and test the earplugs, but so far, the company has made no meaningful effort to turn over any samples.

“The exemplar products are highly relevant to all matters at issue in this case, and the burden on Defendants of producing them is minuscule in comparison to the broader needs of the case,” the Motion States. “Plaintiffs respectfully request this Court grant Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel, and Order Defendants to produce the exemplar products.”

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Background

Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 were developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which won an exclusive contract to provide military earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency in 2002. The 3M Company began supplying the earplugs in accordance with the contract after acquiring Aearo in 2008.

Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 were standard issue for all branches of the U.S. military from 2003 through 2015. The dual-ended earplugs were designed to be reversible, with the green end able to block all sound, similar to a traditional earplug. The yellow end was intended to protect the eardrum from concussive sounds commonly encountered in combat, while allowing the wearer to hear battlefield commands and other low-level noises.

There are roughly 2,680  3M military earplugs lawsuits now pending in the Northern District of Florida. All of the plaintiffs are former active duty U.S. military personnel who developed permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus after being issued Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, for use during combat deployments or live-fire training exercises.

In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $9.1 million settlement with the 3M Company to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency for over a decade. While the allegations echo the claims central to the lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Florid, the settlement did not require 3M to admit liability, nor did it stipulate any compensation for the earplugs’ alleged victims.

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