Kenny Habetz Injury Law | August 29, 2023 | Product Liability
Defective earplugs might not matter much if you use them in a swimming pool. If you are using them for military purposes, especially combat or combat training, they can result in permanent hearing loss. This appears to be exactly what happened to numerous US soldiers who relied on 3M Combat Arms earplugs.
3M has already paid the US government $9.1 million in fines. This amount, however, fails to address personal injury claims by individual service members–which currently number over 200,000. A federal district court has consolidated numerous personal injury lawsuits into multidistrict litigation, and settlement efforts are ongoing at this time (August 2023).
How Personal Injury Claims Work
Filing a personal injury claim is a way of saying, “You are responsible for my injury, and I demand compensation.” There are three ways you might go about this:
- Seek settlement with the defendant (3M).
- Seek settlement with 3M’s liability insurance company by filing a third-party insurance claim.
- File a courtroom lawsuit against 3M.
A personal injury lawyer would probably advise you to sue 3M and then seek a settlement before the trial date.
How Product Liability Lawsuits Work
A lawsuit against 3M for injuries caused by defective earplugs would qualify as a product liability lawsuit. Although there are several different types of product liability lawsuits you might file, a strict product liability lawsuit is probably your best option because you do not have to prove fault to win. Louisiana product liability claims are governed by the Louisiana Products Liability Act.
The Legal Elements of a Claim (What You Have to Prove to Win)
To win a strict product liability lawsuit in Louisiana, you must prove the following facts:
- The product in question (the earplugs) was defective and unreasonably dangerous. In this case, you would probably want to claim that the design of the product was the root of the defect.
- Injury, death, or property damage occurred.
- The defect in the product is what caused the injury, death, or property damage.
- You used the product in the manner that the manufacturer intended.
- You must usually file your claim within one year after suffering your injury (or one year from the date you discovered or should have discovered your injury).
Note that you do not have to prove that your injury was the fault of the defendant, only that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous.
Compensation in a Defective Combat Earplugs Lawsuit
3M faces immense potential compensation claims. They face three forms of potential liability: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages include medical expenses, lost earnings, and diminished earning capacity. To the extent that 3M victims have had to quit their jobs due to hearing loss or even retire early, damages for diminished earning capacity could be immense.
Non-economic damages included compensation for a host of intangible losses. How do you measure, for example, the compensation due to someone who can no longer enjoy music? How about the loss of the ability to effectively communicate with family members?
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life, among other components.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish defendants who have behaved in an utterly unacceptable manner. Most courts are extremely reluctant to award punitive damages, even to victorious claimants. The situation concerning 3M combat earplugs is starting to look different, however. In a 2021 test case, a jury awarded three claimants $2.1 million in punitive damages against 3M.
Act Quickly To Protect Your Rights
With over 200,000 potential claimants, 3M could run out of money before they can compensate all of the veterans who have claims against them. If you suspect that you may have suffered hearing loss because of defective combat earplugs, seek medical treatment immediately.
Your second priority should be to demand compensation. With the right personal injury lawyer by your side, justice can be within reach.
Contact the Louisiana Personal Injury Law Firm Of Kenny Habetz Injury Law for Help Today
If you’ve been injured in Louisiana, please call Kenny Habetz Injury Law for a free case evaluation with a Louisiana personal injury lawyer or contact us online. We have offices in Lafayette and Crowley, LA.