SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – A growing number of veterans are suing the makers of an earplug that the government said is defective.
The Department of Justice already settled its own case against the company, 3M, but none of that money went to the soldiers who suffered hearing loss.
That D.O.J. lawsuit all came about because of a whistleblower that alleged 3M did not disclose defects about the specific earplugs it was selling to the government.
The case settled for a relatively small sum of $9 million but now 3M is staring down lawsuits from service members who feel cheated.
From 2003 to 2015, US soldiers were issued 3M’s “dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2” to protect their hearing.
But after only four years of service with the Marines, Lance Corporal Greg Porter got a diagnosis at age 23 that he did not expect.
“When I was evaluated by the VA they told me I had 30-40% hearing loss in both ears and Tinitus,” Porter said.
Porter was discharged from the military in 2008 because he was shot in the chest. Now as a 35-year-old father of two, he said he suffers more from the hearing loss.
“As far as affecting my daily life, my hearing is worse than getting shot just because I’ve moved on from my physical abilities in my left arm and stuff like that, you get used to that, but hearing, and especially it’s going to grow progressively worse as I get older,” Porter said.
Attorney Josh Christian, with Christian and Davis LLC in Greenville, is one of many lawyers across the US representing veterans who want to hold 3M accountable.
“It appears as though 3M knew through the in-house testing that their earplugs were not actually working on the level they said they were or needed to be working and so that’s kind of what’s brought about the litigation,” Christian said.
In a statement, 3M told 7News in part, “We deny this product was defectively designed and will vigorously defend against the allegations in these lawsuits through the legal process.”
Porter was awarded The Purple Heart for his wound, but now he is hoping the courts will bring to light what was behind the injuries you cannot see and why he cannot hear well.
“How do you have that much hearing loss by 23?” Porter said.
To be clear, the settlement between 3M and the government was based on allegations only and there was no determination of liability.