A federal jury in Florida has stood up for the men and women who serve their country when their government failed to do so. $22.5 million was awarded to an Army veteran who suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of 3M’s sale of faulty earplugs to the United States military. The amount is the largest yet awarded in a litigation that still has hundreds of thousands of lawsuits left to be heard.
The issue stems from a whistleblower lawsuit that alerted the government to the fact that 3M knew that its run of Combat Arms earplugs was defective and was selling them to the military anyway. Designed to be dependent on a tight seal in the ear canal, the devices were manufactured to be too short to create that seal. As a result, the protection that was supposed to keep loud sounds from reaching the ear drums of soldiers and other personnel who encounter such sounds every day was more or less nullified from the start.
The government’s retribution for 3M’s deceit was a paltry $9 million fine; an amount that effectively got them a refund on the contract for the earplugs they had ordered. It did nothing to punish the company for its deceit of its customer or the servicemen and women that would depend on the product to keep their ears and hearing safe.
The result has been over 272,000 consumer lawsuits filed by individual servicemen and women against the company that knowingly put their hearing at risk. Over $29 million has been awarded thus far across just eight trials. 3M has successfully defended itself just three times and two Combat Arms earplug trials are currently underway.