3M, the global conglomerate who sells just about everything, is facing more than 1,000 lawsuits over their “Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs” which have reportedly caused tinnitus and permanent hearing loss in thousands of US veterans. Lawsuits are now being directed towards the multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Florida as each side prepares for a bellwether trial. A bellwether trial highlights a number of cases rather than one, and it will likely impact how the rest of the soldier-versus-earplugs cases will result.
3M’s earplugs were used by every branch of the military from 2003 until 2015. They could be flipped around depending on how much noise the user wanted to block out; the green end was designed to be noise-canceling, while the yellow end only blocked out loud noises like explosions and gunfire. Veterans are claiming that neither side could adequately protect their hearing, and that 3M knew their product was faulty from the beginning.
This is not the first legal action taken against the corporation for their earplugs. In 2016, 3M was sued by Moldex-Metric Inc., a company that also sells hearing protection items. 3M denied the claims and eventually settled for $9.1 million in 2018.
In response to the sudden influx of lawsuits, 3M says that they aren’t responsible for the injuries since they designed the earplugs using the suggestions and feedback given by military representatives. New lawsuits are being filed each day as the court plans for an initial trial.