A class-action suit is taking aim at chemical giant 3M, alleging that defective earplugs used in battle left some troops with hearing loss.
The earplugs were at the center of a $9.1 million settlement with the Department of Justice last summer after a whistleblower told the Pentagon that earplugs didn’t work as well as advertised. 3M, the manufacturer, did not admit guilt in the deal. Now the Colorado Springs-based McDivitt Law Firm is rounding up local clients to take on 3M over the earplug issue.
“We have been looking at this for the past couple of weeks, because we realized how many people here could be affected,” said Lisa McDivitt Bush, the law firm’s spokeswoman.
Soldiers who used the military’s ubiquitous double-ended earplugs from 2003 to 2015 could be impacted by the allegedly faulty product.
Minnesota-based 3M has denied liability and responded to the Justice Department settlement last year by denying it had sold defective products.
“We take great pride in our products and this resolution is not an admission of liability, but simply a decision to move forward with our mission to provide high quality personal safety equipment products to our customers,” 3M said in a statement.
The Justice Department, though, was critical of 3M in a statement issued at the time of the settlement.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division said in a news release. “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
Word of the earplug suits have spread rapidly over social media for the past month, with several lawyers using Facebook to target veterans.
McDivitt Bush said veterans who suffered service-related hearing loss or related issues including tinnitus during the 12-year period when the earplugs were in use could be eligible to join the suit.
The earplug issue isn’t the only McDivitt lawsuit against 3M in a matter related to the military. The firm rounded up thousands of clients in Security, Widefield and Fountain in a suit over water contamination caused by an Air Force firefighting foam. 3M, one of the firms that manufactured the foam, has denied liability in that case, too.
Lawyers in the foam case and the earplug case have targeted manufacturers for a simple reason: Laws make it nearly impossible to sue the federal government.
The dual-ended “Combat Arms Earplugs” were issued widely by the military to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were designed to prevent hearing issues associated with battle.
With more than 80,000 veterans and 40,000 active-duty troops, Colorado Springs is a town where McDivitt thinks plenty of clients for the suit could be found.
“This potentially affects millions of men and women throughout the country, and we want to be sure military members in Colorado know we are able to help them if they want to join the action,” McDivitt Bush said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx