3m earplugs

Combat Vets Sue 3M for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus From Defective Earplugs

The Houston law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz is hosting a press conference on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. (CST) to discuss the lawsuit.

Sgt. Rowe will be present at the press conference to answer questions with his legal team on January 22, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. (CST) at the law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz, located at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

Houston attorneys Mo Aziz, of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz, and Andrew Cobos, of Bell Rose & Cobos, represent Sergeant Scott D. Rowe, a United States Army veteran, in a lawsuit against 3M Company.

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3M lawsuit

Case: United States v. 3M Company

Filed on May 12, 2016.

Synopsis: Defendant 3M Company sold defective dual-ended Combat Arms (trademarked) earplugs, which 3M sold to the US Military for more than a decade without its knowledge of the defect. Fraud perpetrated on the military by 3M have likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus in addition to exposing millions to the risk caused by 3M’s defective earplugs.

Tinnitus & Hearing Loss: 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs (version 2) Defect

Between 2003 and 2015, the dual-ended 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs (version 2) were standard-issued equipment for US Military Servicemen across all service branches. This also included soldiers who were deployed to combat zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The earplugs were intended to provide two levels of ear protection: one side was intended to block all noise and the other was intended to protect the eardrums from gunfire and explosions while still allowing soldiers to communicate freely.

The earplugs contained a design flaw that resulted in the ear plugs being too short for proper insertion into users’ ears, causing the earplugs to gradually loosen and not perform well for certain individuals.

This design failure has resulted in high incidences of tinnitus (ringing or buzzing of the ears) as well as partial or full hearing loss.

False Claims Act

While many allegations are in the process of being investigated and substantiated, the May 2016 court proceedings (see the court docket attached below) present a series of factual allegations that substantiate the fact that 3M knowingly made false certifications to the military in an effort to push the RFP (Request for Proposal) process through. 

How Bad is the Problem?

Data collected by the VA shows that as many as 52% of combat soldiers returning from overseas deployments possess significant hearing damage and represents the largest ongoing medical cost of the military.

In a 2015 report, it was estimated that the VA spends more than $1 billion per year to treat hearing loss for more than 800,000 veterans. 

Whistleblower Uncovers Known Design Flaw

It was not until very recently (July 2018), that the extent of 3M’s failure became known when a whistle-blower stepped forward and alleged that the company knew about the design flaw as early as 2000 but continued to market and manufacture the ear plugs without disclosing it. 

The Combat Arms Ear Plugs were initially designed and manufactured by Aearo Technologies which was acquired by 3M in 2008.

The result of this whistle-blower’s activity was that 3M agreed to pay a $9 million penalty to the federal government for failing to disclose the design flaw.

Lawyers for Veterans

Manufacturers that do business with the Department of Defense must be held to the highest standards and, more than ever, Veterans need the very best legal representation to bring them justice.

We’ve brought together two prominent Houston law firms (Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz and Bell, Rose & Cobos) to create the very best team in the nation to this case.

Our team on this matter is being led by Andrew J. Cobos: a combat veteran (with two tours in Iraq), West Point graduate and law partner at Bell, Rose & Cobos in Houston, Texas who states, “Ultimately it is my desire to see a dishonest contractor (3M)—who manufactured and knowingly sold faulty earplugs to the government—pay for the harm caused to soldiers who were serving their county. My hope is that this lawsuit will send shock waves throughout the contracting world and communicate the message that repercussions will certainly result from contractors who put their profit motive in front of service members’ health and wellness.”

If you are a Veteran or currently still serving in the military and are suffering from hearing problems as a result of defective ear plugs while in combat or training, we urge you to seek immediate advice from an experienced attorney as statutes of limitation dictate the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. 

You can file a claim for representation in under 2 minutes online .

United States v. 3M Company… by on Scribd

3m combat arms earplugs

3M Pays $9.1M Fine for Defective Ear Plugs

July 26, 2018 (via DoJ Public Affairs Office) – The Department of Justice announced that 3M Company (3M), headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division.  “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”

“Through rigorous enforcement of the False Claims Act, we protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said U. S. Attorney Sherri Lydon for the District of South Carolina.  “And in this case in particular, we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.”

“Today’s settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military’s readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military.”

“This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for supplying substandard products, in particular products that could directly impact our service members’ health and welfare.  DCIS protects the integrity of Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the wellbeing of our troops,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig, Jr., DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency.  Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.  The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.

The allegations resolved by the settlement were brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government when they believe that defendants submitted false claims for government funds and to share in any recovery.  As part of the resolution, the whistleblower will receive $1,911,000.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by 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.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.