The Link Between Defective 3M Earplugs and Hearing Loss

| Dec 21, 2020 | Products Liability

In 2018, Minnesota-based 3M agreed to pay a $9.1 million fine for alleged violations of the False Claims Act. According to the Department of Justice, 3M knew that a design flaw caused CAEv2 earplugs to loosen almost imperceptibly. As a result, the earplug did not provide proper protection in many cases.

Although the settlement did not include an admission of liability, a flood of civil lawsuits followed, alleging that the CAEv2’s design flaw caused serious personal injuries.

If a defective product injuries thousands of victims, federal courts usually refer these cases to a Multi-District Litigation site, where they are consolidated for pretrial purposes. This consolidation allows different Lexington personal injury attorneys to pool their resources and obtain maximum compensation for these victims.

Hearing Loss Effects

Full or partial deafness affects millions of Americans. This condition is difficult to detect and difficult to treat. Furthermore, hearing loss has physical and emotional effects. Frequently, the emotional effects are worse than the physical effects.

At first, hearing loss is very slight. Most people assume it is just part of getting older. As a result, they do not go to the doctor or do not think slight hearing loss is important. They do not realize that this condition is degenerative, and early intervention is the only effective way to treat hearing loss.

Every year, hearing aids get smaller and more powerful. So, if you did not like the hearing aid options available a few years ago, you should give the doctor another try. Advanced options are quite expensive. Fortunately, an attorney can obtain compensation for injury-related medical expenses, including medical devices.

However, even the most sophisticated hearing aids only block background noise and amplify sound. If the ear is damaged, the only option is usually risky and invasive surgery. This surgery usually involves implanting a device onto the eardrum.

The physical effects of hearing loss are obvious. The emotional effects are usually not as obvious. People with hearing problems often withdraw from family and friends. As a result, they are prone to fits of depression and anger.

Prizefighter Jake LaMotta, the subject of 1980’s Raging Bull, was mostly deaf in one ear. That hearing loss, and his frustration because of it, probably explains his frequent violent outbursts.

Product Defects

Generally, companies like 3M knowingly sell defective products because they believe it is too expensive to recall and fix them. These companies also believe that a recall would damage their good reputations. Specific types of product defects include:

  • Design Defects: 3M’s combat earplugs were defectively designed. Design defects like these usually involve money and risk imbalance. Companies reason that they save lots of money and that the risk of getting caught is minimal. In other words, they put profits before people.
  • Manufacturing Defect: Once the manufacturing wheels begin turning, it is not easy to stop them, especially if the company lacks conviction. Generally, manufacturers are responsible for all defects which occur during the manufacturing and shipping process. 

That responsibility is typically strict liability. Defective products, like defective earplugs, hurt so many people that a negligence standard does not provide enough protection. In a strict liability claim, most victim/plaintiffs need only prove cause.

Inherently dangerous products, like firearms, work a bit differently. These items are never 100 percent safe. So, these victims need not show that the product was defective. They must only show that they were injured.

Legal Issues

In terms of defenses, unforeseeable product misuse is about the only effective defense. Earplugs are a good example. Manufacturers usually include a warning about inserting the plug too far into the ear. But almost inevitably, people will do just that. As a result, that misuse is not unforeseeable.

Although there is usually no affirmative defense, lack of evidence could be an effective defense in these cases. Generally, victim/plaintiffs rely on experts to make the connection between a product defect and an injury. Companies usually have experts who testify that the product is perfectly safe.

So, victims must have experts who are both well-credentialed and able to connect with jurors. Many experts are only one or the other.

Defective products often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.