Battle-Tested Marine Files Lawsuit Against 3M Company Alleging Use Of Its Defective Military-Issued Earplugs Resulted In Permanent Hearing Loss
14 February 2019
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Marine Captain (Ret.) Matthew Morrison, who served three combat deployments during his six years on active duty, today filed a lawsuit against the 3M Company claiming that its defective combat earplugs, which were worn by Capt. Morrison and millions of other U.S. Marines and service members, were the direct cause of his total hearing loss in his right ear. The allegations, including fraudulent misrepresentation, against 3M are contained in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Capt. Morrison, 35, who served with distinction from 2007 through 2013, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, is represented by trial lawyers from Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C. (SMBB). The firm also represents several other active duty and former soldiers who suffered hearing impairment or total loss as a result of wearing the 3M Combat Arms™ earplugs. The captain's extensive live-fire training experience involved use and exposure to ground-deployed heavy machine guns, rockets, explosives, small arms, and various munitions fired from aircraft. His combat deployments were primarily as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, based at Camp LeJeune NC. He served as a Platoon Commander and Company Executive Officer, and as an advisor to armed forces in Saudi Arabia and Liberia.
SMBB is nationally recognized for its handling of workplace injuries and product liability cases. Robert J. Mongeluzzi, of SMBB, stated, "Captain Morrison put his life on the line for our country, and the "reward" for his service is hearing loss because of a fraud perpetrated by 3M upon him and the U.S. government. It is now time for us to serve him, and those Americans he fought with, who have been injured as a result of the 3M's negligence and failure to provide a product – as they falsely claimed - that would safeguard his hearing. Its actions are reprehensible and demand the kind of scrutiny only a jury trial can provide." Capt. Morrison, a Philadelphia area native and graduate of Delaware Valley University (where he played varsity basketball), also earned a masters degree from St. Joseph's University. His post-military service included two years as a United Way disaster case manager focusing on assisting those suffering losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Married, he works as a facilities manager for a Philadelphia-based global business.
"I was so proud to serve my country, and so devastated to learn that my hearing was irreparably lost despite taking every precaution, including always wearing the required ear protection," said Capt. Morrison. "Part of my mission now is to do what I can to my fellow soldiers to get their hearing checked, and make sure that what happened to me can't happen to others."
Mr. Mongeluzzi and his legal team noted that last year defendant 3M Company agreed to pay the Federal government $9.1 million to settle similar claims that it supplied the United States with the defective dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs. The ineffective earplugs were issued to every member of the armed forces between 2005 and 2015, and as many as 52% of combat soldiers returned from foreign conflicts with significant hearing damage.
Other claims in the lawsuit (Morrison v 3M Company, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania: No. 2:19-CV-00590-BMS) assert that:
- Capt. Morrison, who was honorably discharged in 2013, and diagnosed at the time with hearing impairment, was later diagnosed by an audiologist with total hearing loss in his right ear. The deafness was attributed to the failure of the earplugs. He now detects only ringing in his right ear (his medical condition is known as Tinnitus).
- Throughout his training and pre-deployment preparation, Capt. Morrison engaged in the use of heavy machine guns, mortars and rockets. During those deployments, his basic training and statewide combat exercises, he continuously wore, as directed and required by the Marines, the fraudulently marketed 3M earplugs.
- 3M, which was the government's exclusive supplier of combat earplugs before its fraud was exposed, made false representations with the intent of defrauding and deceiving Capt. Morrison and other service members, and with the intent of inducing the government to purchase the dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs that were touted as leading-edge hearing protection.
- The earplugs failed Capt. Morrison and other Marines because they "had a dangerous design defect that caused them to imperceptibly loosen in the wearer's ear, thus allowing damaging sounds to enter the ear canal around the outside of the earplug."
Andrew R. Duffy, among the SMBB lawyers representing Capt. Morrison, and himself a former Naval officer, stated, "Servicemen and women put their full faith and confidence in the government's suppliers of battlefield equipment, to be the state-of-the art that will not fail. In this instance, the manufacturer provided earplugs it knew were defective and would likely cause hearing damage. They must be held accountable for their actions."
Attorney Robert W. Zimmerman of SMBB added "It would have been so easy for 3M to come clean once it detected the defects in its product. Instead, it engaged in a coverup, putting the health and safety of our troops at risk while the government paid them millions of dollars."
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