We have filed several 3M defective combat earplug lawsuits after whistleblower allegations were revealed stating that defense contractor 3M sold defective Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the U.S. military from 2003 to 2015.

The now-discontinued “combat earplugs” were reportedly standard-issue for military service members from 2003 to 2015. Current and former Army, Navy, Air Force, and Reserves personnel may be entitled to compensation from 3M for any hearing loss or tinnitus from their service.

Read a copy of our 3M Defective Ear Plug Lawsuit Complaint.

3M Litigation and COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many adjustments in the courts, the 3M litigation continues moving forward. Discovery is advancing, and nearly 25 depositions of high-level 3M employees and military officials have already been completed. Those depositions delayed by the coronavirus pandemic are expected to proceed in late May and June.

The Court plans to start the first bellwether trial in the Spring of 2021, with additional bellwether trials to follow that same year.

3M Earplugs Lawsuit Update: What's Happening With My Case?

The 3M earplug litigation is well underway. Focus has shifted from gathering initial information and documents from all plaintiffs to preparing for the initial wave of trials.

Bellwether Trials

A “bellwether” is an individual lawsuit selected from the pending cases to be tried first. In consolidated litigation like the 3M earplugs case, it is common to select a handful of bellwether cases to be tried, with the expectation the trials will serve as sample outcomes that inform the parties and the Court about how to proceed.

In December of 2019, Judge Rodgers randomly selected 1% of all known 3M plaintiffs, and then narrowed the pool to 175 plaintiffs that are roughly representative of the overall plaintiff populations. Then, from the narrowed pool of 175 cases, the Court, Plaintiff’s Leadership, and Defendants selected 25 final bellwether trial picks.

Those 25 plaintiffs are working with their counsel to complete full discovery, including depositions, and prepare for trial. The first trial is set to begin in Spring 2021.

DOJ Settles Defective Ear Plugs Lawsuit with 3M

A whistleblower filed a lawsuit saying that 3M knew about the design defect since 2000, when testing showed that the combat earplugs had no noise-reduction benefit. Yet, 3M continued selling the CAEv2 earplugs to the military, says the whistleblower.

In its answer to the whistleblower’s complaint, 3M admitted that it had tested the earplugs in 2000 and the test came back with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 0.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to intervene in the whistleblower’s lawsuit, asserting its own allegations against 3M. The DOJ alleged that:

3M, and its predecessor Aearo, knew that the CAEv2 [Combat Arms Earplug version 2] was too short for proper insertion in users’ ears and … 3M did not disclose this information to the United States and delivered the CAEv2 to the United States knowing that the product contained defects…

3M decided to settle the lawsuit, agreeing to pay the U.S. government and the whistleblower $9.1 million. Read a copy of the settlement agreement. This money goes to the U.S. government. None of it goes to veterans harmed by the defective earplugs. That’s why we’re pursuing claims on behalf of veterans.

two 3M combat earplugs that sparked DOJ defective earplug lawsuit
3M Combat Arms Earplugs


Frequently Asked Questions about 3M Combat Earplugs Lawsuit

Frequently Asked Questions
(1) Why are the earplugs dual-ended?
(2) What was the defect in the earplugs?
(3) Are the 3M earplug lawsuits a class action?
(4) Where will the lawsuits take place?

(1) Why are the earplugs dual-ended?

The 3M dual-ended earplugs have a yellow end and a dark green end. The dark green side was supposed to block all sound, including voices. The yellow side of the combat earplugs was supposed to block loud impulse sounds on the battlefield, while still allowing spoken words and commands through.

(2) What was the defect in the 3M combat earplugs?

Instead of blocking sound as intended, 3M used a design that allowed the earplugs to loosen in the wearer’s ears. The fins on the unworn side of the earplugs interfered with forming a tight seal in the wearer’s ear canal, unless folded back (according to a whistleblower). 3M admitted in a False Claims Act lawsuit that testing in the year 2000 had shown that the earplugs had a noise reduction rating (NRR) of zero. Because of this defect, service members may have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus from combat noise, firing weapons in training, aircraft noise, etc.

(3) Are the 3M defective earplugs lawsuits a class action?

No, the 3M ear plug lawsuits are not a class action. They are what’s known as a “mass action.”

Class actions and mass actions have similarities. Both types of lawsuits can resolve the claims of an entire group of people.

But in a class action, one person can file a single lawsuit and represent everyone else’s interests. In a mass action, everyone files their own individual lawsuit (although the cases are often consolidated in front of a single judge).

(4) Where will the 3M defective earplug lawsuit be litigated?

Cases on behalf of veterans have been filed in multiple states. The lawsuits have all been consolidated in front of a federal judge in Florida. The judge — the Honorable Casey Rodgers — is a veteran of the Army, having served from 1985 to 1987.

Just because the cases have all been sent to Florida does not mean you need to travel to Florida. We work hard to minimize the burden on you. Most of what we’ll need from you can be handled by phone, email, or regular mail.