Former Army Sgt. Scott D. Rowe, a combat veteran previously stationed at Fort Hood, is suing 3M Company over what he says were defective earplugs, causing him permanent hearing loss, tinnitus and poor balance.
The lawsuit, that was filed Tuesday morning, claims that 3M Company knowingly designed, made and sold the defective dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs without warning the users about any defects. 3M issued the earplugs to U.S. soldiers for over a decade between 2002 and 2013.
Rowe is represented by Mo Aziz and Andrew Cobos of the Houston-based law firm Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz. During his military career, Rowe was stationed at Fort Hood and Fort Lewis, Wash., and deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Like many other service members during this timeframe, Rowe was issued the earplugs while serving in Iraq.
“It is reprehensible for a U.S. corporation, in this case 3M, to knowingly supply defective products to the U.S. military,” said Rowe’s attorney Cobos in a news release published by his law firm. “These service members are overseas, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting their lives on the line. The last thing they should have to worry about is the adequacy of their equipment.”
According to Rowe’s law team, the stem of the earplug is too short, making it difficult for people to insert the plugs deeply in the ear canal. The defect causes the earplug to loosen in the ear, allowing sounds to enter the ear canal around the plug.
The earplugs were originally developed by Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M in 2008. According to news reports, 3M Company reached a $9.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last year for selling the defective earplugs to the military. The settlement was reached over allegations without any proven liability.
Rowe is suing for an unspecified amount of damages, including the cost of past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, physical impairment, mental anguish and loss of wages and earning capacity.
Although veterans may have used the earplugs over a decade ago, they might still be eligible for compensation.
“Sgt. Rowe’s lawsuit is his first step to hold 3M accountable for his lifelong tinnitus condition,” said his attorney Aziz. “Veterans injured by 3M’s conduct have similar legal rights.”