Those who serve our country take on a noble act and we, as a country, do our best to make sure they are as safe as possible when in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable. One way our nation works to keep our soldiers safe is through protective gear. This will vary depending on the situation, but can include helmets, eye protection and ear plugs.
But what if that gear does not work? What if the manufacturer lies about the product? What if the product leads to injuries for thousands of soldiers?
What happens when protective gear fails to protect soldiers?
These are the types of questions courts are navigating right now. The issue began when 3M, a multinational conglomerate corporation known for producing scientifically innovative products, convinced military leaders that it could provide an earplug that did the impossible: protected soldiers ears while still allowing them to hear orders from their commanding officer. The Combat Arms version 2 ear plugs were sold to the military from 2003 to 2015, only to be replaced by Version 4, sold from 2015 to present.
The problem? The ear plugs did not work.
How do we know the earplugs did not work?
One of the ways we hold those within the private sector accountable is through the use of whistleblower lawsuits. These lawsuits basically allow anyone that has information about illegal activity to file a lawsuit on the government’s behalf. If the government pursues the lawsuit and wins, the whistleblower gets a portion of the winnings.
3M was held accountable through such a suit. A whistleblower came forward and accused the mega-corporation of knowingly selling the military defective earplugs. The whistleblower provided evidence that 3M was aware the ear plugs were too short for proper use and could become dislodged from the ear canal in a way that left the user open to injury.
How can veterans and active military members hold 3M accountable?
There are currently over 250,000 claims filed against 3M by veterans and service members who claim the defective ear plugs led to hearing loss and tinnitus. Some have built successful cases and won millions while others have yet to file.
Those who believe they were the victim of an ear injury due to use of this product may be able to file such a claim. Whether or not this is an option will depend on a number of factors, including the statute of limitations. This is a time limit that varies depending on the state. Legal counsel can review and provide guidance.