3M is an American manufacturer of many different products – including Post-It notes, Scotch tape, and various personal protective equipment. 3M’s personal protective equipment product line includes masks and respirators that Americans have become all-too-familiar with in the COVID era, as 3M actually invented the N95 respirator mask during the 20th century.
But in addition to masks, 3M manufactures earplugs for use across a variety of industries, including within the military. 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, commonly known as CAEv2, were developed in the early 2000s and were standard issues to almost all US Armed Forces service members between 2003 and 2015.
Since then, more than 140,000 people have filed lawsuits against 3M claiming to have suffered from hearing loss and other impairments due to the CAEv2 earplugs being defective. Some of these lawsuits have been successful, and others have not. Today, affected veterans and other CAEv2 users continue to file new lawsuits against 3M for manufacturing the defective product.
Our team of nationwide personal injury attorneys is ready to assist 3M CAEv2 earplug victims, including veterans and their families. We are proud to offer free consultations to all prospective clients, and if we are able to take your case, we will seek justice on your behalf to the fullest extent possible.
3M CAEv2 Earplugs
In 2003, through its subsidiary Aearo Technologies, 3M developed and began to manufacture CAEv2 earplugs. These earplugs were primarily designed for use by military service members as protection from the loud sounds that occur in military combat and training. The CAEv2 earplugs used a double-ended design that provided varying levels of protection. When inserted on one side, the earplugs allowed users to hear low-level sounds, and when inserted on the other side, the earplugs provided complete protection, blocking out all sounds.
Defects in 3M CAEv2 Earplugs
According to 3M, the CAEv2 earplugs were especially effective for use in military settings because their double-ended design could allow for soldiers to hear low-level noises, such as officer commands while blocking out louder noises such as artillery shelling or explosive blasts. The government provided CAEv2 earplugs to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as standard issues for more than 10 years, between 2003 and 2015. Any and all American soldiers deployed during those years received CAEv2 earplugs for use on the battlefield and in training exercises.
In 2015, 3M ended production of the CAEv2 earplugs for reasons unknown, and without any announcement of a product recall. Shortly thereafter, in 2016, a competitor company filed a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M alleging that the CAEv2 earplugs were defective and that 3M intentionally misrepresented their protective abilities to the government when it marketed the earplugs for military standard issue. More specifically, the lawsuit alleged that the earplugs were too short for their “double-sided” design to be truly effective and that the earplugs did not provide an effective enough seal to provide true protection from loud noises.
During the whistleblower lawsuit, evidence was discovered to show that 3M executives bragged about charging the federal government more than $7 for the earplugs when they cost less than $1 to produce. Among other evidence, 3M appears to have known that the earplugs were far less effective than the company purported them to be. In 2018, 3M settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay the federal government $9.1 million but did not admit to any liability in doing so.
Conditions Caused by 3M CAEv2 Defects
The whistleblower company claimed that during the military’s usage of CAEv2 earplugs as a standard issue, thousands of American veterans experienced hearing injuries because of the earplugs’ defective attributes. The specific conditions experienced by veterans include:
- Tinnitus, or permanent ringing of the ears
- Partial hearing loss
- Total hearing loss
- Balance and vertigo issues
- Other hearing-related disabilities
These conditions are not only life-altering and devastating on their own, but can dramatically worsen unrelated conditions suffered by veterans, including PTSD and mental health challenges. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, hearing-related disabilities are the most common service-related disability experienced by all veterans of the American armed forces. More than 2 million veterans are currently receiving VA disability benefits for tinnitus, and more than 1 million veterans are receiving benefits for hearing loss.
Due to the devastating and expensive nature of these injuries, any veteran or active service member who served between 2003 and 2015 and who has now developed a hearing-related disability or condition may be eligible to seek compensation from 3M for their injuries.
CAEv2 Earplug Lawsuits
After 3M settled the whistleblower lawsuit, thousands of veterans began coming forward to seek compensation from 3M for their own injuries suffered by the CAEv2 earplugs. As of early 2023, there were more than 200,000 veterans and active service members who have sued 3M because of CAEv2 earplug defects. It is unknown how many victims remain, but almost 3 million American service members were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the relevant time frame, so millions of victims could still be without access to justice from 3M.
Multi-District Litigation in CAEv2 Cases
Almost all of the 3M CAEv2 cases have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation proceeding, commonly known in the federal courts as an MDL. In an MDL action, similar cases that are filed in different courts across the country are consolidated into one “parent case” in a single court to allow for more efficient processing. The “parent case” is made up of a countless number of “member cases,” comprising each individual lawsuit filed across the country.
When multiple cases are all against a single defendant, such as 3M, and are based on the same theory of liability, MDLs allow for the cases to proceed much faster than if they all had to be litigated individually. While the individual details of each case are usually litigated individually, to the extent that certain motions can be decided as they are applicable to all cases, MDLs allow for that to happen.
The CAEv2 MDL is occurring in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, captioned In re: 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2885. As of 2023, the CAEv2 MDL is the largest MDL proceeding in the history of multi-district litigation in the United States.
Notably, the CAEv2 lawsuits are not proceeding as a class action. That’s beneficial for CAEv2 victims because the MDL allows each victim to negotiate settlement amounts or pursue jury verdicts that adequately compensate the victim for his or her own injuries and their specific effects.
How to File a 3M CAEv2 Earplug Lawsuit
Joining the 3M CAEv2 MDL is generally the same as filing any other lawsuit, except that when the case is filed, it is “assigned” to the MDL proceeding, and all activity that has occurred within the MDL prior to the new case being filed applies to the new case, as well. However, due to the complex procedural nature of multi-district litigation, you should ensure that you’re working with an experienced and capable team of attorneys who are knowledgeable about complex federal lawsuits.
Our team at Bailey Glasser has the experience, knowledge, and resources to ensure the best possible outcome for every case we’re able to take on, including those in multi-district litigation proceedings.
Compensation Sources for CAEv2 Earplug Victims
Since CAEv2 lawsuits have been filed, 16 cases have gone to trial as “test” cases for the plaintiffs’ theories of liability against 3M. Of those cases, 10 resulted in verdicts for the plaintiffs, and six resulted in verdicts for the defense. Unfortunately, these defense verdicts have led 3M to be less reluctant to settle cases as quickly as other defective product manufacturers may be.
However, that fact should not deter CAEv2 victims from assessing their options. All in all, compensation sources for hearing disability victims include the following:
- Individual settlement negotiations with 3M
- Jury verdicts from trials
- VA disability benefit programs
- Mediation and arbitration proceedings
- Pooled settlement negotiations from MDL proceedings
An experienced attorney can assist you and your family in determining if you may be eligible to pursue compensation from 3M for your injuries, and if so, what is the best way to proceed.
Contact a 3M CAEv2 Earplug Lawsuit Attorney Today
Initiating your quest for compensation begins with consulting an experienced attorney for eligibility assessment. We extend our services, offering free, risk-free consultations for those exploring options within 3M earplug lawsuits, Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuits, Hologic Biozorb Lawsuits, or Medtronic Heartware Lawsuits. As we keep abreast of the latest turns in the CAEv2 MDL proceedings and master the intricate federal procedures, we assure premier representation for our clients.
Should we proceed with your case, we pledge to champion your cause and that of your family to the maximum legal extent. Get in touch today to arrange a complimentary consultation with one of our nationally recognized personal injury attorneys.