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Veteran’s lawsuit says combat earplugs were defective

Sun-Times file photo

Sun-Times file photo

A former Army medic from Illinois is suing 3M over hearing loss allegedly caused by defective earplugs the company knowingly sold to the U.S. military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eric Taveras’ lawsuit is the first filed in Illinois, and follows a recent flood of similar lawsuits against 3M since the company settled a lawsuit about the dual-end Combat Arms earplugs.

In July 2018, 3M settled a lawsuit alleging it sold earplugs too short for proper insertion and agreed to pay more than $9 million, but without admitting guilt, the Department of Justice said at the time.

The earplugs were necessary to protect from injuries caused by explosions and firearms during training and combat, the lawsuit states.

“You feel betrayed when something that was supposed to help keep you safe doesn’t work properly,” Taveras, 41, of Elmhurst, said in a news release. “It feels even worse to realize that this was something the company knew about, but didn’t tell us.”

The lawsuit filed by Taveras alleges that 3M knew of the defects as early as 2000, three years before the company became the sole supplier of earplugs to the U.S. military at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The company supplied the earplugs to the military between 2003 and 2012.

Taveras, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, now suffers from permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, the lawsuit states.

The original maker of the earplugs, Aearo Technologies, was acquired in 2008 by 3M Company, which assumed responsibility for their products.

The suit alleges that 3M learned that inserting the earplugs deeper could help them work properly, but did not tell the military personnel of the technique.

3M did not immediately respond to a request for comment.