St. Paul, Minnesota-based company 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the U.S. military defective earplugs. As part of the settlement, 3M did not admit liability.
According to a July 27 Military Times report, 3M allegedly sold its dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the actual effectiveness of the hearing protection the device offered.
Allegations Claim Company Aware of Earplug Defects
In the settlement, the U.S. government purported that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. As a result, the earplugs could gradually — and subtly — loosen until they did not perform the desired noise cancellation for certain individuals, according to a US Department of Justice news release.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the allegations were initially brought up in a 2016 lawsuit filed by a whistleblower, one recently identified (via unsealed court records) as the earplug maker Moldex-Metric Inc, a California-based company. Moldex Metric specializes in hearing protection and respirator equipment.
“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in a Thursday news release.
The allegations were brought against 3M through the enforcement of the False Claims Act, according to the release. Although the case has been resolved, all claims within the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The United States also alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military when the contract was finalized.
In a statement to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, a 3M representative said, “We take great pride in our products,” but that it wanted to close the matter and spare current and former employees from a protracted case.
*Featured image courtesy bizjournals