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IBJ Interviews Attorney Reese About the 3M Earplug Lawsuits

Wagner Reese

A History of Negligence

In 2003, soldiers in the United States military were issued Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to protect their ears from dangerous combat-related noises, including explosions and heavy gunfire. The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency purchased these earplugs from Aearo Technologies, Inc., a company that was later acquired by 3M, a multinational conglomerate corporation, in 2008.

These dual-sided earplugs were designed to serve two essential functions: one side operated as a traditional earplug to block noises during combat situations; the other side reduced the same noises, but also allowed the wearer to hear quieter vocal commands (selective attenuation). However, both Aearo Technologic, Inc. and 3M failed to notify the military that the stem in these earplugs dislodges over time, rendering them completely useless.

For 12 years, these companies knowingly supplied over 2 million defective earplugs to the American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, millions of veterans are now suffering from partial or total hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related medical conditions.

The Qui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuit

In 2016, Moldex-Metric, Inc., a competing earplug manufacturer, filed a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit against 3M under the False Claims Act. When 3M finally agreed to pay a $9.1 million settlement, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the following statement: “The United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.”

But What About Our Soldiers?

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, over 200 current and former members of the military have filed lawsuits in both state and federal courts. In her article, “Indy earplug maker is focus of veterans’ product-liability lawsuits,” reporter Susan Orr interviewed our client, Dale Nash, who was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and consequently suffers from debilitating tinnitus.

To learn more about the lawsuits being filed against 3M and Aearo Technologies, Inc., Orr turned to our very own Jason Reese, who is representing Nash and other similarly injured plaintiffs. In her report, she summarizes how Wagner Reese, LLP has “already filed 31 lawsuits against 3M and Aearo in state court on behalf of Indiana plaintiffs, and another 23 in federal court on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs.”

Attorney Reese explained to Orr how Wagner Reese, LLP anticipates “that there are going to be thousands of [lawsuits] filed across the nation. This is a significant case, with significant injuries.” He also clarified that the original lawsuit is responsible for the many individual claims being filed across the country. The resulting settlement was so large that it made headlines, prompting injured parties to seek legal advisement. Or, as Attorney Reese puts it: “It kind of got the facts out there as to what was going on. It made it public.”

At present, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is considering if the federal lawsuits should be consolidated for the purposes of discovery and pretrial proceedings. The issue will be discussed at a hearing in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 2019.

Wagner Reese, LLP has already filed a motion in support of pretrial consolidation and is requesting that proceedings take place at the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Indiana. However, Reese added, it’s uncertain if federal cases will return to their respective states for trial, or if the judicial panel’s decision will affect the lawsuits filed in state courts. “It’s just kind of a wait-and-see issue right now.”

Do You Require Legal Representation? Contact Wagner Reese, LLP

Over 1,500,000 active duty Americans were deployed in U.S. war zones in the years between 2003 and 2015. If you’re one of the many soldiers harmed by 3M’s defective combat earplugs, turn to the Indiana defective product attorneys at Wagner Reese, LLP. Our trial-tested legal team includes Attorney Jason Reese, who is recognized as one of the best personal injury attorneys in Indiana. You can rely on Wagner Reese, LLP to meticulously investigate your case, represent your hearing loss claim, and help you pursue life-changing damages and service-connected disability benefits.

Contact Wagner Reese, LLP at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a consultation today.


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