If you have ever purchased a roll of scotch tape, then you may be familiar with the brand, “3M”. 3M is a major corporation that sells thousands of work-related items, worker safety products, and consumer goods. One particular product that they sell, their 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, has gained the unwanted attention of the legal system and the press. 

In 2016, a competitor filed a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M under the False Claims Act. The complaint alleged that 3M made false claims regarding the safety and design of their earplugs. Based on these false claims, the government purchased the earplugs to distribute to members of the U.S. military for use in combat.

Although 3M settled the lawsuit in 2018 after agreeing to pay $9.1 million to the government, there are still many ongoing private actions and claims being brought by veterans and other injured military members against the corporation. 

Therefore, if you or a loved one has been injured by 3M earplug products, then you should contact a local attorney to find out whether you can file a claim for damages.  

What Kinds of Defects are Associated with 3M Earplugs?

Some kinds of defects that have been associated with 3M earplugs include that:

  • The defect in the design of the earplugs renders the overall product useless;
  • The earplugs do not provide the two settings for hearing (i.e., open and closed) as allegedly promised;
  • After testing some of these products, studies have shown that the earplugs fail to meet proper safety standards and that they do not in fact protect the wearer’s hearing; and 
  • The earplugs themselves are too short. Thus, they constantly slip out of a wearer’s ears and do not fit properly.        

What Injuries are Associated with Defective 3M Earplugs?

Some of the injuries that have been associated with the defective 3M earplugs include the following:

  • Tinnitus (a medical condition that causes ringing or buzzing in one’s ears);
  • Permanent or temporary hearing loss;
  • Loss of balance;
  • Deafness; 
  • Permanent ear damage; 
  • Emotional distress; and/or
  • Various other related injuries.

Can I File a Lawsuit if I’ve Been Injured by 3M Earplugs? Who Can be Held Liable?

A person who has suffered injuries as a result of using 3M earplugs may be able to recover damages. The typical plaintiff in the majority of these cases is a veteran who served in the military between the years of 2003 to 2015, and who has also suffered hearing related injuries caused by the defective 3M earplugs. 

In addition, the defendant or entity being held liable for damages in most lawsuits is 3M. 

What Damages Am I Entitled To? 

A person who has been injured as a result of using 3M earplug products may be eligible to receive compensatory damages for related medical expenses. These may include tinnitus and temporary or permanent hearing loss.

Aside from medical expenses, an injured plaintiff may also be able to recover for future lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, and disability benefits. In rare cases, the court may also issue a punitive damages award. 

What Evidence is Needed in a 3M Defective Earplug Lawsuit?

Products liability cases usually involve proving one of the following: negligence, breach of warranty, strict liability, or misrepresentation. Out of these four causes of action, negligence is the one that is most commonly used in defective product cases. This means that the injured party must demonstrate that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the potential risks concerning their product’s design.

In order to show that 3M earplugs were defectively designed, a plaintiff will have to prove the following elements exist:

  • That the plaintiff used the product (here, 3M earplugs) as it was intended;
  • The manufacturer could foresee that how the product was designed would pose a potential risk of danger when used for its intended purposes;
  • That there was another design the manufacturer could have adopted to make the product safer, and that this alternative design would perform just as well as the defective product;
  • That the cost necessary to make a safer alternative design is not unreasonable; and
  • Despite proper use, the plaintiff still suffered injuries as a result of using the defective product.

Additionally, depending on the laws of a particular jurisdiction, a plaintiff may instead have to prove that the product created a risk of danger that goes beyond what the ordinary consumer would expect to happen when the product is used for its intended purposes. This is known as the “consumer expectations test”, which replaces the elements regarding a safer alternative design. 

To learn more about the above legal theories and the specific elements that apply in products liability cases in Fairfax, an injured party should contact a local Fairfax lawyer immediately.

Can I File a 3M Defective Earplug Lawsuit in the Fairfax Area?

An individual or a family member of an individual, residing in the Fairfax area who served in the military and was affected by 3M earplugs, may be eligible to file a defective products lawsuit to recover damages for injuries sustained.

The best way in which a person can find out whether they are eligible to file such a lawsuit or not is by contacting a local Fairfax attorney for further legal advice. The longer that an injured party waits, the less likely that they will be permitted to bring an action against 3M for their defectively designed earplugs.

Does Fairfax/DC Have any Unique Laws Governing Defective Products Like 3M Earplugs?

Given the sheer volume of cases that may be filed when a product has a defect in its design, courts tend to consolidate these types of cases into one of three actions: a class action, a mass tort, or multidistrict litigation.

Several districts in Virginia, including Fairfax, are combining 3M earplug cases into a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”). MDL is used in situations where multiple lawsuits have been filed by individuals who have suffered either the same injuries or harm due to a company’s conduct. MDL is also applied when cases involve complex law and the court is attempting to speed up the process. Products liability happens to be a very complex area of law.

In DC, on the other hand, the courts are consolidating the 3M earplugs cases by forming a mass tort action. Mass torts can be filed on their own, as MDL, or even as a class action, depending on the jurisdiction. They generally occur when plaintiffs have suffered harm due to a corporation’s negligence or misconduct. In the 3M scenario, the corporation made false claims that resulted in harming numerous individuals. 

One other difference between the two jurisdictions, but is crucial to know when filing a defective products lawsuit, is that they have separate regulations for how long a person has to file an action. These regulations are known as statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations for Fairfax is generally two years. If the individual is filing in DC, however, they will have three years before the time to file expires.

Should I Hire a Fairfax Lawyer for Help with a 3M Earplug Lawsuit?

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a result of using 3M Earplugs, then you should contact a Fairfax lawyer for further legal guidance as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to determine whether you or your loved one has a viable claim, can help you prepare and file a lawsuit, and can represent you in court.

It is important that you consult a local personal injury lawyer sooner rather than later, so that you can file a claim before Virginia’s statute of limitations expires, and so that you do not miss your chance to join an action for multidistrict litigation.