3M must pay up $12.245 million in punitive damages and $816,395 in compensatory damages after a Florida federal jury found the company liable for an Army sergeant’s hearing loss due to faulty combat earplugs. This is the largest amount awarded so far in the latest bellwether trial for the mass litigation headed by members of the military who used the faulty earplugs. 

There are over 250,000 plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation alleging damage from earplugs produced by a 3M owned company. This is the sixth bellwether trial for the mass litigation, and the fourth to result in compensation for military members. Two bellwether trials resulted in verdicts for the defense while the other three resulted in $7.1 million, $1.7 million, and $8.2 million awards for military plaintiffs. 

The Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 produced by Aearo Technologies LLC were used by military personnel from 2003 to 2013 and were allegedly too short for proper insertion in the ear canal, causing them to loosen in the ear and not properly protect soldiers’ hearing from loud noises. 

In 2003, the US government issued an RFP, or government contract proposal, to Aearo Technologies. The company falsely certified the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 was up to the designated standards by confirming they had a certain noise reduction rating (NPR) and would protect military members from damaging sounds. Proper testing was careless and negligent, yet the company confirmed to the government the earbuds tested at the required 22 NPR rate when in reality, the earbuds tested at an average rate of about 10.9 NPR, a vast difference.

According to a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice, 3M has known since as early as 2000 that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were defective. After acquiring Aearo, 3M hired Aero employees, including developers, who were aware of the product defect through pre-market testing in 2000.

Aearo Technologies and its predecessor 3M failed to acknowledge the design defects to the United States government and military members.

As military personnel are often near loud noises, ear protection is vital, and ineffective ear protection can result in permanent damage, including unilateral (one ear) and bilateral (both ears) hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing/buzzing in the ear. 

For those hoping to pursue legal action for hearing loss resulting from ineffective Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, you must meet the following qualifications: 

  • Served in the US military between 2003 and 2015
  • Must have used military issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs during military service
  • Must have been diagnosed with unilateral or bilateral hearing loss
  • Must NOT have any of the following:
    • Waardenburg syndrome
    • Branchiootorenal syndrome
    • Stickler syndrome
    • Usher syndrome
    • Pendred syndrome
    • Alport syndrome
    • Otosclerosis
    • Meniere’s disease


At TorHoerman Law, our team of 3M combat earplugs lawyers is experienced in all types of defective products lawsuits. A 3M combat earplugs lawyer from TorHoerman Law is available to speak to any service member who believes that he or she has a potential 3M combat earplugs lawsuit, free of charge and no obligation necessary.


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