Veterans sue 3M, claiming earplugs were defective

Combat Arms earplugs are at the center of lawsuits filed against Maplewood, Minnesota-based 3M.

Designed to protect the ears, hundreds of veterans and active duty service members from around the country charge that the double-sided earplugs instead led to hearing loss.

“Our clients are from all walks of the military and have been deployed many times,” said attorney Bill Sieben, of Minneapolis law firm Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben.

Sieben is representing a growing list of plaintiffs who worked around weapons and heavy equipment.

“Quite frankly, the hearing protection just didn’t work, and it didn’t work because of a defect in the hearing protection itself,” said Sieben.

Allegations that 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military for more than a decade surfaced in a federal whistleblower lawsuit. In a settlement last year, the manufacturing company, agreed to shell out more than $9 million to the federal government, but didn't admit liability.

“Hearing loss affects every phase of your life,” said Sieben.

Sieben says that some of his clients suffer from significant hearing loss and a condition known as tinnitus, which can cause a ringing in the ears. 

Tuesday evening, 3M released the following statement in regards to the lawsuit: “3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world, and their safety is our priority. We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions. We deny this product was defectively designed and will defend against the allegations in these lawsuits through the legal process.”

“They’re a good corporate citizen, but occasionally good people make mistakes and they made mistakes in this case and ultimately, do we think that they’ll do the right thing? We do,” said Sieben. “But if we have to fully litigate this, that’s what we’ll do as lawyers.”

For those affected by the lawsuit, Here is a list of resources.