Friday, July 27, 2018

3M Sells the Government Defective Earplugs

A whistleblower suit alleged that 3M Company sold defective earplugs to the Defense Department. Apparently, these particular earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users' ears and the plugs could also loosen imperceptibly and cause them to fail. Apparently, 3M Company know about the defects but failed to disclose the design defects to the military.

This is a case where the Government might never have known the earplugs were defective had it not been for the whistleblower who had knowledge of the defective design and also knew that 3M had delivered the earplugs anyway.

3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations although in doing so, made no concession of liability or admission of guilt. For his (or her) reward for raising the issue, the whistleblower will receive almost $2 million (or whatever is left of the $2 million after the attorneys take their cut).

This is no small matter. Hearing loss from military weapons is painless, permanent, and progressive. But it is also preventable. It has been reported that 52 percent of combat soldiers have moderately severe hearing loss, or worse. Hearing loss and tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) is the single injury that affects military personnel more than any other. In many cases, hearing loss can affect survivability.

3M's deliveries of faulty earplugs to the military could result in more than just hearing loss. It could also affect soldier survivability. Wonder who in the organization thought that company profits were more important than soldier survivability?

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