Sadly, we must report that many of our veterans have developed significant hearing loss and that a factor in their hearing loss were defective earplugs that were deliberately sold to the Defense Department by 3M with the full knowledge that they were defective!
History of the Earplugs and Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the second most common cause of disability in the Veterans Administration system. Many of these cases are found in our older veterans and are related to the natural aging process, but there has been an alarming increase in the number of younger veterans with dramatic degrees of hearing loss. In many cases the damage to our servicemember's hearing was due to a defective product.
In 2018, 3M agreed to a settlement of a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that it and Aearo Technologies (acquired by 3M in 2007) sold noise protection earplugs to the U.S. military even after becoming aware of a defect that would markedly reduce the earplugs' effectiveness. This defect led to damage to the ears of our servicemembers caused by loud noises such as explosions, artillery and naval cannon fire, and working around aircraft.
It has since been learned that thousands of our veterans have suffered the "late" effects of repeated exposure to the noises mentioned above and have developed hearing problems that, in some cases, have led to total disability. The two most common problems experienced by these veterans are:
The American Tinnitus Associationsays that tinnitus is best described as "ringing in the ears" that cannot be attributed to the victim's surrounding environment. Although "ringing" is the most common description, some have described tinnitus as "rushing water," "wind blowing through trees," or a low frequency rumbling. In addition to exposure to loud noises, tinnitus can occur in conditions such as ear infections, as a side effect of certain medications, or following head and neck trauma.
Repeated exposure to loud noises is, by far, the most common cause of hearing loss in adults. Although it usually takes years of exposure to such noises before significant hearing loss occurs, hearing loss has been diagnosed in an alarming number of younger veterans who served in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Due to the fact that hearing loss is often progressive, the exact number of cases is unknown.
Can I File a Lawsuit Because of My Hearing Loss?
If you are currently on active duty in the armed forces, a member of the National Guard or Reserve component of the armed forces, a retired member of any branch, or have left the armed forces after your ETS and can answer "yes" to each of the following questions you have the right to file a lawsuit against 3M / Aearo Technologies, Inc.:
- Did you served in any branch of armed services, including reserve and National Guard units, between the years 2003 and 2015?
- Were you we issued, and did you use, the defective product, the dual-sided 3M Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2), between 2003 and 2015?
- Do you have a confirmed diagnosis of hearing loss?
If you answered "yes" to each question, you are entitled to file a lawsuit against 3M.
What Do I Do Now?
Up to this point, we have assumed that you are already receiving VA benefits for service-connected hearing loss. If this is not the case and have notand want to apply, or if your application has been denied, a personal injury and disability lawyer will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Note that you can file a lawsuit regardless of your claim status. In fact, since the facts in a VA disability claim and a 3M lawsuit are essentially the same, both can be pursued at the same time! Now it is time to consult a personal injury lawyer.
There is a "time limit," known as the statute of limitations, that governs how long after your injury you can file a lawsuit. Usually, this time limit begins of that the plaintiff (you) knew, or should have known that you had suffered an injury. However, 3M's lawyers will almost certainly argue that the statute of limitations began to "run" on July 26th 2018, which is the day that 3M acknowledged that it had sold defective products to the Department of Defense.
In simplest terms, you should assume that the statute of limitations will expire on July 26th 2020 and file your 3M lawsuit well before that date. Once the statute of limitations expires, the courts will forever refuse to hear your case!
When choosing a lawyer to represent you in your hearing loss lawsuit, you want a lawyer who is:
- aggressive and willing to stand up to 3M, a multinational corporation with an annual revenue of more than $30 billion
- understands the ins and outs of dealing with government agencies as the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense
- is willing to work with you to insure that you receive the best possible settlement of your hearing loss lawsuit
You can find such a lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with offices located throughout the country.
When you contact our personal injury lawyer to arrange a review of the facts in your 3M hearing loss case and a review of the legal options that are available to you, your first consultation is always free of any charges and does not obligate you to hire our firm as your legal counsel. If you should decide to file a lawsuit, and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-to percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.