With more than 270,000 cases currently pending over allegations that 3M defrauded the U.S. government and sold it millions of faulty earplugs, 3M has managed to have 20,000 of those cases thrown out after the veterans failed to provide the court with copies of their DD214s.
The DD214 is also known as the official service record. The document shows the capacities in which the veteran served; their roles, locations, and other data that can be used to determine the extent to which they would have been exposed to the kinds of loud sounds that the Combat Arms earplugs were supposed to have protected them from had they been properly designed and worked as intended.
Cases can be reinstated for those who provide their DD214s to the court soon. However, with over 20,000 of the documents outstanding, a significant number of veterans stand to lose their claims that 3M’s fraudulent actions have caused them injury – in some cases, lifelong.
3M came under fire after a whistleblower notified the government that 3M knew that the batch of earplugs to be sold was too short and chose to sell them anyway. In response, the government fined 3M – a company that makes tens of billions of dollars in revenue every quarter – $9.1 million over the attempted fraud. This fine essentially amounted to a refund of the purchase price of the contract.
Noting that the government they’d sworn to serve, fight, and die for if necessary was not going to hold 3M to any significant level of account over the issue, more than a quarter of a million active and retired service members and veterans began suing 3M themselves over claims of tinnitus and permanent hearing loss.
Despite the removal of 20,000 lawsuits from the docket for the time being, attorneys for the plaintiffs say that 3M cannot hide from what they’ve done and will be forced to pay for it. “3M cannot escape the fact that they are facing more than 200,000 claims from U.S. service members after supplying them a defective earplug that caused irreversible hearing damage,” says the lead firm in the case. “With more than 85% of plaintiffs transitioning their cases to the active docket, and juries entering verdicts in favor of two-thirds of service members to go to trial to date, we are very much looking forward to the hundreds of cases the court is preparing the parties to try this year.”