Several dozen active duty and retired military members are suing the consumer production giant 3-M in federal court in San Antonio, claiming they lost their hearing due to defective earplugs the corporation supplied to the U.S. armed forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"3-M was the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the entire United States military from 2003 to 2015," said T.J. Mayes, a partner with Phipps Deacon Purnell PLLC and the lead counsel in the lawsuit filed in San Antonio. "Every Airman, Soldier, Marine, and Sailor who passed through the military at that time was given as standard issue these earplugs."
The earplugs were designed to shield the military members from the potentially damaging noise of heavy arms fire, but Mayes says that wasn't the way it worked out.
"Documents show that for years, 3-M knew that the earplugs were faulty and didn't tell the Pentagon, and they had a duty to tell the Pentagon, and that is just egregious conduct in our estimation."
3-M has already paid $9.1 million to the U.S Department of Defense to settle a False Claims Act allegation, but Mayes says the service members also deserve to be compensated.
Many Iraq and Afghan war vets who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they were proud to stand up and serve their country, but they don't think they should have lost their hearing so a private company can make a bigger profit.
Mayes says similar lawsuits are being filed in federal courts around the country, and they are expected to be consolidated. It will be up to a panel appointed by Chief Justice Roberts to decide where the consolidated case will be heard, and he will ask the panel to move the trial to San Antonio, because 'Military City USA' is uniquely placed with the level of miltiary expertise required to be able to parse a legal case of this magnitude.