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Bridge City Man Suffered Hearing Loss from Defective Earplugs; Former Neighbor Turned Lawyer Vows to Help
BEAUMONT – David Martin and Cody Dishon grew up across the street from each other in Bridge City, TX, inseparable kids who always had each others’ back. When they got older, Martin joined the U.S. Air Force and went on to serve in Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan. Dishon became a lawyer.
Their paths recently crossed again when Martin sought Dishon’s help after suffering hearing loss and tinnitus caused by defective earplugs sold by a government contractor who knew the product was faulty.
Dishon vowed to once stand by his childhood friend.
“We are trying to raise awareness and reach out to veterans who are having problems. Hundreds of thousands of veterans could have been affected,” said Dishon, who works for The Ferguson Law Firm. “Every veteran who served in the military – in combat or in military training shooting guns surrounded by loud noises are likely to have used these faulty earplugs.”
The Minnesota-based company 3M manufactured the defective earplugs and failed to warn users of their defects or to provide proper instructions for their use. 3M sold the faulty earplugs to the U.S. military, which in turn issued them to thousands of military personnel. Internal testing conducted by 3M found the earplugs to be defective, but the company falsified certification stating that the testing complied with military standards and sold them anyway.
Martin, who still serves his country as a member of the Air National Guard, said military personnel relied on the earplugs and wore them every time they reported for duty.
“It’s kind of heart wrenching to say the least. You are overseas serving your country and I’m just one of many that used these earplugs and now we’re paying the price for it,” Martin said. “You can’t put a price on your health. You can’t put a price on your hearing.”
He worries that his hearing will worsen over time.
“Absolutely it scares me,” Martin said.
3M was the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the military from 2013-2015.
“It is a fact that this company knew this product was bad and yet they sold it to the military,” Dishon added.
3M last year agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold its earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that reduced hearing protection, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The allegations were brought against 3M through the enforcement of the False Claims Act.
“3M sat quietly about the defects, continued to sell the Combat Earplugs and made millions,” according to a lawsuit filed by Dishon on behalf of Martin. “Defendants knew that without modified fitting instructions, which it never provided to the users, the Combat Earplugs could not prevent harmful sounds from entered the ear canal.”
Dishon said the $9 million 3M was ordered to pay is much less than is owed to injured veterans.
“3M got slapped on the wrist with a $9 million fine. People like my client were overseas using those earplugs and now they are faced with hearing loss,” Dishon said. He noted that hearing loss is one of the top costs at VA hospitals.
Martin said veterans who have suffered hearing loss should speak up.
“If you used these earplugs, don’t be afraid or try to play a macho part and just live with it and think that nothing is going to get done,” Martin said. “3M needs to be held accountable for their actions.”
“These were specialized ear plugs that the company promised would meet certain standards and didn’t,” Dishon noted. “Testing revealed major problems with the ear plugs the company manipulated the testing the get the result they wanted. Then they sold the ear plugs to the government for a long, long time.
“It is time to hold this unethical company accountable for the damage they have caused to so many veterans who put their lives on the line to serve our country,” he added.