ATHENS, Ga. – (March 7, 2019) – Several military veterans and one service member from South Georgia have filed lawsuits against 3M Company after suffering permanent hearing loss, allegedly due to defective earplugs that were issued during their service in the United States Army, Air Force, and Navy.
Jeffrey Allen Dice, Brunswick; Richard English, St. Marys; James Wilcox, Rincon; and Marvin Foster, Douglas Greenfield, and Edmund Diaz, all of Hinesville; are represented by Athens law firm Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, P.C. The firm has filed the six cases in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia/Savannah Division against the multinational conglomerate corporation for allegations that it sold defective earplugs to the United States Armed Forces.
3M manufactured and sold Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the United States Armed Forces for use by military service members from 2003-2015. The earplugs were used to protect service members from noise exposure from tanks, gunfire, aircraft, explosions, roadside bombs, heavy equipment and more during combat and training.
According to the lawsuit, the earplugs were defective because they were too short to properly insert into service members’ ears and, as a result, they came loose and didn’t work as intended. The lawsuits assert 3M knew of the defects in the earplugs and sold them to the military anyhow and further alleges that 3M failed to inform the military that when it tested the earplugs, it instructed the testers to manipulate the earplugs to achieve better results. Thousands of U.S. service members received the defective earplugs. The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs have since been discontinued, but they were standard-issued equipment between 2003-2015.
The Department of Justice announced in July of 2018 that 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military without disclosing defects.
All the South Georgia men have issued a set of dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, which were used during active duty while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bosnia from 2003-2015. As a result of the earplugs’ defective condition, all six men suffer from permanent hearing loss. Prior to joining the military, none of them had signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
The earplugs were originally created by a company called Aearo Technologies. 3M acquired Aearo in 2008 for $1.2 billion dollars and hired the Aearo employees that developed and tested the defective earplugs. According to the lawsuits, the 3M employees were aware of the defects as early as 2000, several years before 3M became the exclusive provider of the earplugs to the military.
“Our military service members deserve better treatment than this,” said BBGA attorney Jim Matthews. “It is simply unacceptable that 3M knew the earplugs were defective and sold them to the military anyhow. We are proud to represent these veterans and look forward to their day in court.”
BBGA has an established track record of helping injured veterans. When a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart Recipient was paralyzed because of a VA hospital’s negligence, firm attorneys fought to hold the hospital accountable and secured a $3.23 million settlement to ensure he will get the future medical care he needs. Another Iraq War veteran who was paralyzed through medical negligence sought the firm’s help and BBGA attorneys aggressively fought for justice and obtained a $2.5 million settlement.
BBGA is nationally recognized in multi-district litigation in Georgia and across the country. The firm has been lead counsel or co-lead counsel in at least five national MDL proceedings and currently represents the State of California in two major drug price-gouging cases, and dozens of Georgia governments in lawsuits aimed at multiple manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The firm’s MDL experience spans across multiple complex MDL cases, including transvaginal mesh, talcum powder, and hernia mesh cases.