Central Texas veterans are taking a Minnesota-based company to federal court after complaints of faulty ear plugs that led to hearing loss.
For more than a decade, 3M issued the ear plugs to soldiers in combat. Lawyers say more service members are coming forward about the problem.
The ear plugs were originally designed to reduce the sounds of explosions while soldiers were in combat. Years later and veterans say those same ear plugs did more harm than good.
Gilberto Figueroa joined the army in 2002, fighting in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. During his deployment he used the 3M ear plugs to protect his hearing during combat.
“I wasn’t like this before,” Figueroa said. “I was fine. Now I have to deal with this for the rest of my life.”
Figueroa was medically discharged in 2012, the Killeen veteran was later diagnosed with hearing loss and tinnitus, constant ringing in the ears.
“I have tinnitus all the time, ringing in my ear. Every night and every day,” Figueroa said.
He is now one of hundreds in Central Texas filing a lawsuit against 3M, the maker of the ear plugs.
“Knowing that it was due to the ear plugs was a new revelation to us last year when the settlement occurred with the whistle blower,” managing partner Craig Carlson of the Carlson Law Firm said.
Lawyers first heard about the complaints in Dec. Service members say the ear plugs design was ineffective, saying they were too short to stay in place and allowing dangerous sounds to slip through.
“It’s just so horrible that any company in the united state would take advantage of soldiers and our government in this way,” Carlson said.
Lawyers claim the company allegedly knew about the issue since 2000. More than 100 local veterans have now come forward.
3M also released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world. We have a long history of serving the U.S. Military, and we continue to sell products, including safety products, to help our troops and support their missions. We are not commenting on specific litigation matters at this time.”