March 15, 2022

On December 10, 2021, a federal jury in Florida found against 3M and in favor of Army veteran Theodore Finley for his hearing loss and tinnitus in a bellwether case alleging ineffective combat earplugs, awarding the plaintiff a total of $22.5 million in damages ($7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages). This trial was the eighth in the consolidated lawsuits against 3M and its Aearo Technologies LLC subsidiary regarding the Aearo Combat Arms version 2 earplugs.

In 2008, 3M bought Aearo Technologies, which had developed the yellow and dark-green dual-ended earplugs called Combat Arms. 3M had an exclusive contract through the U.S. Department of Defense to provide the earplugs as standard issue to military personnel. The flexible cups on the side of the earplugs protruding from the ear sometimes had to be folded back in order to be effective. If the earplugs were not properly used, they would loosen and dangerous levels of noise would enter the ear.

The veterans who used the earplugs allege that 3M failed to advise them of the need to fold the plugs and that they became aware of the issue only after 3M paid $9.1 million in 2018 to settle the government’s claims that it failed to disclose the defects: the U.S. Department of Justice announced on July 26, 2018 that “3M Company … has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device … The settlement … resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, 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.”


There were six individual trials and a consolidated trial of three veterans’ claims that preceded this recent case, resulting in plaintiffs’ verdicts for six service members with damages totaling about $30 million, and three defense verdicts for 3M.

3M issued the following statement after its recent loss: “we are only halfway through the bellwether process … Juries differ, each case must be proved on its individual facts, and our successes thus far illustrate the heavy burden plaintiffs must meet in proving the elements of their claims. We remain confident that the CAEv2 product was safe and effective to use and will continue to defend ourselves throughout this litigation.”

Source Finley v. 3M Co., N.D. Fla., No. 7:20-cv-00170.

If you or a family member used the allegedly defective Combat Arms earplug and suffered harm such as hearing loss or tinnitus, you should promptly contact a lawyer who may assist you with your possible claim.

Contact us on our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find defective earplug lawyers who may assist you.

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