blog home Product Liability The Importance of Individual Representation for Our Veterans

The Importance of Individual Representation for Our Veterans

By Jason Bottlinger on March 20, 2019

When a defective product or service has hurt an entire group of people, the injured parties can file a class action lawsuit, allowing all who were harmed to recover damages. You may have received postcards in the mail, informing you that a lawsuit has been filed and that you’ve been identified as being potentially eligible for participation. While it may seem like participating in a class action would require nothing more than responding to such a notice, the process is actually very complicated. But just because it isn’t simple, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. If you’ve been harmed by a company’s negligence, you should do everything you can to get the compensation you deserve, including contacting an attorney who can advise and represent you.

Many members of the U.S. military are in precisely this situation, as a class action suit was filed against 3M—a company that designed and manufactured earplugs used by individuals serving in the armed forces between 2003 and 2015.

The Combat Arms Earplugs had an innovative feature. Dual-sided, they could be used in two different ways, depending on which side was inserted into the ear. When the black side was inserted, it was designed to block all noise, like a traditional earplug. But, if the yellow side was inserted, only loud battlefield sounds would be blocked, allowing the user to still hear softer sounds, such as verbal commands.

The lawsuit filed against 3M alleged that the earplugs were too short. This defect in the design allowed damaging sounds to enter the ear canal, permanently harming the wearers’ hearing. Users were not informed that the devices could be adjusted to better fit an individual’s ear, in order to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Members of the military who used the earplugs reported severe ringing in the ears, dizziness, and headaches. Those affected were individuals who fought in the following wars between the years 2003-2015:

  • War of Afghanistan
  • Iraq War
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • War in Somalia
  • American-led intervention in Libya
  • Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
  • American-led interventions in Iraq (2014-2017)
  • American-led intervention in Syria (2014 to present)

On July 26, 2018, 3M agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice a $9.1 million settlement to resolve allegations that they had knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military, resulting in widespread hearing loss. This government settlement will likely encourage many military veterans to file their own lawsuits against 3M for the personal injuries they sustained while using this product.

When considering participating in a class action lawsuit against a product manufacturer, it is advisable to hire an attorney to protect your individual rights and interests. A class action attorney represents a large group of people in either a lawsuit or in settlement negotiations. An integral part of that attorney’s job is to prove that the circumstances of every member are the same, and that they should all be treated as one entity.

It is imperative that each injured consumer has their own advocate, looking out for their best interests while navigating the lawsuit. Many consider “going it alone” against the product manufacturer, believing they can do an adequate job without having to share any of their possible compensation with an attorney. While this could seem like a wise, or money-saving choice, it may end up costing you more than it saves.

Product manufacturers typically have their own team of lawyers who will fight against a class action lawsuit every step of the way. These lawyers will often use a variety of tactics against consumers who attempt to represent themselves in court. One commonly used strategy is to intentionally delay hearings and withhold paperwork. By doing this, the process takes longer and ends up costing you, the plaintiff, more money. Companies that have more assets at their disposal can afford to adopt this strategy and are counting on the fact that ordinary consumers won’t be able to it.

If your health or well-being has been adversely affected by a company’s negligence, you should have the tools and resources you need in order to get what you deserve. Victims of the defective earplugs made by 3M, as well as countless others who have similarly suffered because of faulty products, may be eligible to receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills;
  • Past lost wages;
  • Future lost wages;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Temporary disability;
  • Permanent disability; and
  • Punitive damages.

Bottlinger Law, L.L.C. represents victims of defective products and gives a voice to consumers who would otherwise be unable to defend themselves on their own. If you, or your loved one, could be eligible to participate in a class action, or were a member of the U.S. military affected by 3M earplugs and may be eligible for a hearing loss settlement, please contact Bottlinger Law, L.L.C. by calling (402) 505-8234 for a case evaluation.

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