As thousands of members of the military are pursuing compensation for hearing damage they blame on 3M combat earplugs, a judge hearing the case ordered the company’s internal documents released. They reveal the fact that the company was well aware of the defect in the product. They also make clear the fact that the company failed to adequately alert the military of the problem, thus leaving soldiers vulnerable to significant harm.
The 3M combat earplugs that are at the center of the legal battle were a significant profit center for the company. According to information available through the release of documents, the company’s costs for making the defective product were only 85 cents each, but they charged the military $7.63 each. The earplugs represented 5% of the company’s U.S. revenues within its hearing protection business and 20% of its operating income.
Thousands Affected by Defects in 3M Combat Earplug
The scope of damage caused by the defective 3M combat earplugs is apparently enormous. So far there are more than 150,000 individual service members that have filed personal injury lawsuits against the company, as well as its subsidiary, Aero Technologies. These numbers are increasing rapidly, with almost 23,000 of those claims filed during March of 2020. The company has already settled with the Department of Justice, providing $9.1 million in compensation after being accused of having defrauded the military and not meeting design requirements. The personal injury trials for the case are not expected before 2021, but evidence gathering and depositions are already well underway as seen by the documents that were recently released. In deposition territory, 3M’s representatives excused their decisions regarding the products by blaming it on the military.
Remarkably, Timothy McNamara, 3M’s sales manager for the U.S. Midwest indicated that he did not believe that service members were entitled to know that there was a difference between what the company’s testing methods showed was needed to achieve appropriate noise reduction and the instructions that had been given to the military.