Jury awards $50 million to Army Veteran in combat earplug case

Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits over the allegedly defective earplugs are pending.

On March 25, a federal jury awarded $50 million to a United States Army Veteran who blamed his hearing damage on combat earplugs 3M Company sold to the military.

Luke Vilsmeyer claimed he had suffered permanent hearing loss and severe tinnitus after using the company’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, mostly during training drills, from 2006 to 2017.

Jurors in Pensacola, Florida, sided with the 42-year-old Indiana resident, who served in the Army from 1999 to 2020, as a Howitzer Gunner and later as a Green Beret.

Attorneys for 3M said the company would appeal the jury’s verdict.

So far, plaintiffs in these cases have won a combined $160 million in six separate “bellwether” trials. A bellwether trial is a test case in mass tort litigation used to gauge how jurors will react to evidence and arguments.

3M has been on the winning side in five other combat earplug trials.

To date, more than 280,000 active and former military personnel, including many from Massachusetts, have sued St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M over the earplugs. As a result, the earplug lawsuits have mushroomed into the largest federal mass tort litigation in our nation’s history. (The mass tort litigation over the weedkiller Roundup is the second largest.)

Product Liability Claims Against 3M

In the combat earplug cases, plaintiffs allege that 3M concealed design flaws, faked test results, and failed to provide instructions on how to use the earplugs.

The earplugs at the center of the lawsuits are 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (Version 2 – CAEv2).

The double-ended earplugs were supposed to block out loud noises while still allowing soldiers to communicate with each other. 3M maintained that the different sizes would permit all users to achieve a perfect seal in the ear canal.

Personal protection equipment company Aearo Technologies initially developed the earplugs and sold the company to 3M more than a decade ago.

Some evidence indicates that the earplug manufacturers knew about the product’s safety problems as early as 2000 but covered them up. In 2018, for example, 3M paid more than $9 million to the U.S. Justice Department to settle claims that it knew about the earplugs’ defects but failed to warn the military or military members. 

However, 3M never admitted to any misconduct, and the Justice Department never issued a determination of liability.

The earplugs have now been discontinued.

Filing a Claim Against 3M for Hearing Loss or Injury

Our law office has received numerous inquiries from potential clients about the earplugs in recent months. 

Currently, we are investigating 3M earplug claims for active military members and veterans in the greater Boston area.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes hearing loss among American veterans as “the most prevalent service-connected disability.”

If you are a U.S. military service member who used 3M earplugs and later sustained deafness or hearing loss (either full or partial) or a hearing condition such as tinnitus, you may be able to file a claim against 3M. Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears.

From 2003 to 2015, thousands of military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other war zones used the earplugs. Safety experts say hearing damage occurs when noise levels exceed 85 decibels. Noise from military equipment such as helicopters, tanks, grenades, and heavy artillery exceeds 105 decibels. While many soldiers’ hearing loss occurs over time, others experience hearing loss after a single exposure to a loud noise, like a bomb or missile.

One question that we routinely get is whether you can file a lawsuit if you are already receiving veterans disability payments for a hearing loss. The answer is yes. That is because your veterans disability payments are not connected in any way to injuries caused by defective products.

To learn how our defective product attorneys can help with a 3M military earplug claim, contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers LLC today at (617) 777-7777 or fill out our online form.

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