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Defective Ear Plugs Lead To Multi Million Dollar Verdicts


We trust products every day with our lives and our bodies—so many that we probably don’t give much thought to them. And although defective drugs and medications get a lot of news, medical devices also can go bad, and cause harm. One device maker, 3M, is learning that the hard way.

Verdict Goes Against Ear Plug Manufacturer

Recently, 3M was told by a federal court that it would have to pay a total of just over $8 million stemming from injuries that the company’s earplugs caused to soldiers. The combat earplugs caused tinnitus, and loss of hearing in soldiers, according to the lawsuit and the verdict.

The soldier who brought the lawsuit won his case, and the jury found that 3M’s ear plugs had a design defect and that there were no safety warnings on the product to warn users of the defect and the harm that it could cause. The soldier was suffering from hearing loss, and ringing in the ear—the exact thing that the earplugs were supposed to protect, if designed properly.

This was only one in a number of trials that are set to be heard against 3M for injuries stemming from the defective earplugs. It also wasn’t the first; a recent case against 3M yielded a $7 million verdict with other cases also finding 3M liable.

Bad Instructions Caused Injuries

The earplugs were used by the army from 2007 to 2013. The lawsuit alleged that for the plugs to work, and properly safeguard soldiers’ ears, there were small cups on the earplugs that had to be folded a certain way. However, if they were not, noise could get in, and damage the users’ ear. The lawsuits allege that soldiers were never told about the necessity of folding the earpieces, or otherwise that the instructions given by 3M were unclear.

The soldiers actually learned about the defect when the U.S. government came after 3M, which had to pay $9 million to satisfy the government’s claims against the company.

Bad Directions Can Lead to Liability

The case is a reminder about strict liability, the standard of liability that relates to defective products, and product liability suits. A company can be liable not just for making a defective product, but even a product that works fine can be defective, if instructions for use aren’t properly disclosed to the end consumer. This is especially true with a product that is designed to protect someone from harm.

Consumers certainly have a legal obligation to read directions and instructions, and to use products the right way. However, the company must provide proper and full safety instructions as well.

Remember that with product liability cases, everyone in the line of sale is liable, from original manufacturer to the end retailer. That means that you don’t have to know exactly who made the product that injured you to hold someone liable for injuries you sustain because a product malfunctions.

If you have been injured by a defective product, get help. Call the Knoxville product liability attorneys at Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to see how you can hold a company liable for selling you a product that causes you injury.




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