Army Veteran Awarded $50 Million in 3M Earplugs Lawsuit

by Clayton Edwards
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Luke Vilsmeyer is one of hundreds of thousands of the United States military veterans to file a lawsuit against 3M. These lawsuits all center on what the plaintiffs claim were faulty earplugs that lead to hearing damage or loss. In a recent ruling, a Florida-based federal court ordered the company to pay the former Green Beret $50 million in compensatory damages. While this is not the first case that 3M lost, it does represent their second-largest payout in a long series of lawsuits.

At a Glance

  • A federal court awarded an Army veteran $50 million in his lawsuit against 3M.
  • Vilsmeyer claims that 3M’s faulty combat earplugs caused hearing damage.
  • This was only one of several lawsuits against the company.
  • 3M will appeal the court’s decision.

Why the U.S. Army Veteran Filed a Lawsuit Against 3M

Vilsmeyer is far from the only veteran to file a lawsuit against 3M. According to a Reuters report, over 280,000 former and active-duty members of the military have sued the company. Those suits all claim that 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 were faulty. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that the company altered test results, failed to provide adequate instructions for use, and hid design flaws from its military consumers.

Vilsmeyer, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army filed his lawsuit against 3M after using the allegedly faulty earplugs for eleven years. He used the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 between 2006 and 2017. However, Vilsmeyer says he primarily used them during training. In his early days in the Army, Vilsmeyer was a Howitzer gunner. Later, he became a Green Beret.

Vilsmeyer’s lawsuit hinged on the fact that the earplugs caused him to suffer permanent hearing loss and severe tinnitus.

It is important to note that a 155mm Howitzer’s blast is 181 decibels, according to a U.S. Army technical guide on hearing loss prevention. To put that into perspective, normal conversation is about 60 decibels and a jet engine comes in at about 150 decibels. Knowing this, it is easy to see how important ear protection is for Howitzer gunners. It also explains why the jury found in favor of the veteran in his lawsuit against 3M.

3M Faces More Litigation

As previously stated, more than 280,000 veterans and active-duty military members have filed lawsuits against 3M. The company’s combat earplugs are at the center of what has become the largest federal mass tort litigation in the history of the United States.

So far, the federal court in Florida has heard more than a dozen veteran-led lawsuits against 3M. The company has paid out a grand total of $210 million dollars after losing seven cases, Vilsmeyer’s case included. However, five juries have sided with 3M. But the company does not plan to allow this verdict to stand.

Reuters reported that 3M was “disappointed” by the verdict in the most recent veteran-led lawsuit. The company plans to appeal. “The same issues raised in our earlier appeals relating to legal defenses and evidentiary hearings will apply in this trial,” the company said in a statement. In a previous case, the company claimed that the military was responsible for the design of the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2. Furthermore, they claim that their position as a government contractor preempts part of Vilsmeyer’s case.

In a joint statement, Vilsmeyer’s attorneys said, “It is clear that 3M’s defenses – whether in the courts, to investors, or the public – are unconvincing and without merit.”

Another suit against 3M begins Monday.

Outsider.com