PHILADELPHIA, March 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Additional lawsuits have been filed by Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C. (SMBB) on behalf of active duty soldiers and veterans against the 3M Company regarding its defective Combat Arms™ earplugs. The complaints allege that the military-required earplugs, worn by troops from 2003-2015, were the direct cause of hearing damage, including deafness, to countless military service members. The allegations against Minnesota-based 3M are contained in the individual filings.
In 2018, 3M paid $9.1 million to settle a whistleblower fraud claim brought against it by the federal government. The lawsuits filed by SMBB seek compensation for the service members, who suffered hearing loss and tinnitus (commonly referred to as a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears), as well as punitive damages resulting from 3M's conduct in testing, manufacturing, and distribution of the earplugs.
Andrew R. Duffy, among the SMBB lawyers representing the plaintiffs, and a former Naval officer, stated, "Every one of these plaintiffs, who had no prior hearing impairment before their deployments, put their life on the line for our country, and the "reward" for their service is hearing loss because of 3M's defective earplugs." SMBB, which represents over three dozen plaintiffs seeking to hold 3M accountable for its conduct, is nationally recognized for representing victims in cases involving devastating workplace injuries, complex product liability, and catastrophic wrongful death, such as last July's mass-casualty duck boat disaster in Branson, Missouri.
The complaints were filed on behalf of:
- U.S. Army Captain William Anderegg (Anderegg vs. 3M Company, No. 2:19-cv-00772-BMS), who remains on active duty. Prior to joining the Army, he served eight years in the U.S. Air Force. A veteran of several combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Anderegg suffers from hearing impairment – the medical condition is known as tinnitus – in both ears. Like all the plaintiffs, he has had exposure to live fire and training with heavy artillery and rockets, among a variety of munitions.
- U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant (Ret.) Christopher Baca, (Baca vs. 3M Company, No. 2:19-cv-00771-BMS) served eight years, and his combat deployments included Iraq and Qatar. As a result, he now has hearing loss in one ear and tinnitus in both ears.
- U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant (Ret.) Peter Cordrey (Cordey vs. 3M Company, No. Case 2:19-cv-00769-BMS) served four tours in Afghanistan during his 20-year military service. He presently has partial hearing loss in both ears and has also been diagnosed with tinnitus in both ears.
- U.S. Army Specialist (Ret.) Michelle Farren (Farren vs. 3M Company No. 2:19-cv-00770-BMS) served from 2009-2013), including combat tours in Iraq where she supported field troops conducting interrogations. She suffers from tinnitus in both ears as a result of her use of the defective earplugs
- U.S. Army Captain David Henderson, (Henderson vs. 3M Company, No. 2:19-cv-00773-BMS) is a West Point graduate and active duty reservist, and has been deployed to Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has significant hearing loss in one ear and tinnitus in both.
- U.S. Army Joseph Robert Junk (Junk vs. 3M Company, No. 2:19-cv-00768-BMS ) enlisted out of high school in 2008, following a long family tradition of military service. He served in an artillery division in Afghanistan before his discharge in 2011. He has been diagnosed with tinnitus in both ears and hearing loss in his left ear.
The lawsuits also allege that 3M, which was the government's exclusive supplier of combat earplugs, "made false representations with the intent of defrauding and deceiving the plaintiffs and other service members, and with the intent of inducing the government to purchase the Combat Arms™ earplugs" that were touted as leading-edge hearing protection."
The earplugs failed to protect the service men and women, according to the complaints, because they "had a dangerous design defect that caused them to imperceptibly loosen in the wearer's ear, thus allowing damaging sounds to enter the ear canal around the outside of the earplug."
Robert J. Mongeluzzi, of SMBB, stated, "3M's conduct establishes that they were more concerned with sales than service members and more concerned with profits than people. After learning of the defect in their product, they failed to correct it. Their silence was deafening."
Attorney Robert W. Zimmerman, of SMBB added, "3M served itself rather than the servicemen and women of this country. This lawsuit will serve as a reminder to all companies that bid for government contracts that their actions have consequences. We look forward to jurors deciding 3M's fate loudly and clearly."