What Role Does the Government Play in the 3M Defective Combat Earplugs?

What Role Does the Government Play in the 3M Defective Combat Earplugs? 3M agreed to pay the government $9.1 million after its Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 proved to be defective, thereby damaging the hearing of hundreds of veterans.

The U.S. government played a role in the 3M defective combat earplugs lawsuit by filing as a plaintiff.

How the 3M Defective Combat Earplugs Case Began

A company called Aearo Technologies created the defective Combat Arms earplugs that sit at the center of a current growing lawsuit that thousands of U.S. veterans are taking part in.

In 2003, Aearo Technologies entered into a contract with the U.S. government, whereby the manufacturer served as the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the Department of Defense (DOD). The dual-ended earplugs, designed to prevent hearing loss and damage, were standard issue for men and women serving in the U.S. Air force, Army, Marines, and Navy through 2015.

3M purchased Aearo Technologies (Aearo) in 2008, thereby taking over the earplug contract with the U.S. military.

About the Defective 3M Combat Earplugs

The earplugs’ novel, dual-ended design was a strong selling point for the DOD, as the manufacturer claimed that if one side were inserted, it would shut out all sound, and if the other side were inserted, it would shut out sounds of explosions, but still enable enough hearing to let the soldiers communicate and detect an enemy approach.

Moldex Blows the Whistle and Files Suit

A competitor of Aearo Technologies/3M, Moldex-Metric, Inc. (Moldex), exposed that Aearo Technologies knew about defects that had been surfacing in the military earplugs as far back as 2000, significantly before the company inked its contract with the DOD.

Moldex summoned the whistleblower provisions afforded by the False Claims Act to take legal action against 3M. These provisions enable private entities to file a qui tam action on behalf of the government in cases where the filing entity can prove that fraud was perpetrated against the government. As a reward for taking this action, the “whistleblower” enjoys a portion of the damages that the government is awarded in the lawsuit.

Consequently, Moldex filed its legal action against 3M in May 2016. In the lawsuit, United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, the United States government acts as the plaintiff, while Moldex is the “relator.”


Details of the Government Lawsuit Against 3M

The language in Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.) against 3M specified the government’s pursuit of compensation for the damages incurred as a result of the defective military earplug manufacturer’s false claims, which included falsification of testing procedures.

In terms of damages, the government claimed that 3M’s fraudulent practice and defective products resulted in excessive costs to taxpayers, including the following financial burdens:

  • The expenses of medically treating veterans who suffered from hearing impairment and other damage, with a final cost far surpassing any other ongoing military medical cost
  • Repeated purchases of 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs throughout the course of the contract with the DOD


3M Settles the Case with No Admission of Wrongdoing

earplugs to the DOD without informing the government of defects that rendered them ineffective as hearing protection devices.

Moldex, the relator in the legal action, received $1,911,000 for the role it played and as provided for in the Fair Claims Act.

Coordinating the settlement was the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Despite its settlement payout, 3M refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing on its part with regard to the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs version 2.


The Zanes Law Team Can Help You With Your Defective Earplug Case

If you or a loved one served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and sustained hearing loss and/or tinnitus, you may be eligible to file a 3M defective earplug lawsuit or join the ongoing MDL. Civilians who used the earplugs may also qualify. Call Zanes Law for a free, no-obligation consultation: (833)-890-8329.

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