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3M agrees to settlement with U.S. service members over earplugs

3M agreed to pay $6 billion to settle a number of lawsuits brought forward by members of the U.S. military who lost hearing or experienced other injuries while using faulty earplugs.

The manufacturing giant received more than 300,000 complaints that their earplugs failed to protect veterans from hearing loss.

3M and Aearo Technologies, a company that 3M acquired in 2008, were sued over the Combat Arms Earplug products, which allegedly had a defective design that caused the plugs to loosen, leaving the military members unprotected against close-range firearms and other loud noises.

The company had already lost 10 cases that had gone to trial, according to Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis, & Overholtz PLLC, one of the law firms representing plaintiffs.

The settlement “represents a tremendous victory for the thousands of men and women who bravely served our country and returned home with life-altering hearing injuries,” attorneys representing the plaintiffs said in a statement. “We are proud to have obtained this settlement, which ensures that those who suffered hearing damage will receive the justice and compensation they so rightly deserve.”

The settlement will be paid out over several years as $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in stock.

3M is also awaiting the finalization of a $10.3 billion settlement over public drinking water systems contaminated with toxic PFAS “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to cancer, developmental defects and other health problems. That agreement was reached in June.

The company said the earplugs agreement is “not an admission of liability.”

“The products at issue in this litigation are safe and effective when used properly. 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation if certain agreed terms of the settlement agreement are not fulfilled,” the company said in a statement.

The earplugs were used by the military between 2003 and 2015 during training and combat, according to the Wall Street Journal.

With News Wire Services

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