Cindy Speaker: Afternoon and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me attorney Laura Holland of Gardberg & Kemmerly. Laura, how are you doing today?
Laura Holland: I’m doing well, Cindy, how are you doing?
Cindy Speaker: Doing good. It’s good to talk to you.
Laura Holland: Good to talk to you too.
Cindy Speaker: Well, we’re going to talk about an issue affecting veterans today and it involves what I believe is an ongoing lawsuit that has to do with earplugs that the 3M company sold to the military. Tell us a little bit about that lawsuit.
Laura Holland: All right. Well, the lawsuit with the US government has settled, 3M settled with the US government for 9.1 million dollars. The lawsuit was based on a whistle blower who actually notified the government that 3M was selling these earplugs that they were under a defense contract with the US government to provide and with known defects.
Cindy Speaker: Wow.
Laura Holland: So they had known about those as alleged by the US government. They had known about those since before the contract was even signed with the US government.
Cindy Speaker: Oh my goodness!
Laura Holland: They were aware of the defects. But the lawsuit was settled. So they didn’t have to go through that in court, so these are all alleged facts, what the US government alleged in their filings. So none of it is confirmed really. But they did allege that 3M was aware of this prior to signing the contract and it took a whistle blower to really get this out in the open and get the US government aware of what was going on with these earplugs. The ear plugs that were used by the US government, by the military were the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, version two. And those were the ones that 3M was under contract with the US government to provide to all military.
Cindy Speaker: All military.
Laura Holland: Yes. That’s correct.
Cindy Speaker: They were widely used then.
Laura Holland: Very widely used, from 2003 until 2015.
Cindy Speaker: Okay.
Laura Holland: So there’s no telling how many people used those and people who now have hearing problems because they used those and relied on the 3M company to provide what they said they were providing, what they told the US government they were providing, who in turn provided those to service men and women. So it really is sort of a classic case of corporate greed and that these were provided and used and bought by the US government for over 10 years. So now they, like I said, they have settled with the government, but this opens the door for lawsuits from individual veterans who have experienced hearing loss or Tinnitus or Tinnitus, however, they’re said both ways. But opens the door for claims for individual veterans, which is kind of what we’re looking at, at this point in our law firm.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Let me just understand, so earplugs are worn, and I should know this, but I really don’t. Earplugs are worn by the military, is that when they’re using firearms? On what occasions are they used?
Laura Holland: Yes, it would be pretty much, I mean, I believe the majority of the time that you are in training or in combat, you’re exposed to all of these kinds of noises from guns, artillery, grenades, and like I said, not just in when you’re deployed, it’s when you’re in training and things like that, you’re also exposed to all these extremely loud noises. So that’s why those were issued, and that’s when those were used. So they were pretty much used by, I would say, I would think anyone who even went through training would have used these.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. And the damages that we’re seeing, how extensive are they?
Laura Holland: Well, it varies really.
Cindy Speaker: Okay.
Laura Holland: There are people that we, well I guess we don’t know, but we suspect, have hearing issues because they are already service connected with the VA they filed for hearing loss.
Cindy Speaker: I see.
Laura Holland: They’ve had hearing tests done through the VA and the VA has already said, yes, you have lost a certain percentage of your hearing. So we’re going to compensate you for that. So those people are really kind of the first ones who will come along with his lawsuit against 3M because they know, if they served between ’03 and ’15 and are already service connected for the hearing loss or for Tinnitus, they should be filing a claim mail or contacting us to file a claim and to evaluate the case because really it’s pretty widespread, but the harm does vary from person to person. It’s not necessarily, you were issued these so you definitely have a claim. It’s, you were issued these, you are suffering hearing loss, you’ve had hearing testing done and therefore you have a claim. Really the main thing is that hearing testing needs to be done to show that you do have some type of hearing loss or issues with Tinnitus and you served between ’03 and 2015.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. So to veterans that have served during those years, they have some hearing loss, you’re saying, is the first thing they should do, have testing or should they come to you for advice? How would they get started with this?
Laura Holland: I would say probably have the testing done and have that in hand because that makes it much easier to evaluate the case.
Cindy Speaker: Okay.
Laura Holland: People, like I was saying, people who already have cases with the VA where they’ve already done testing, where they’ve already done compensation and pension exams, which are exams that are done regularly when someone files for disability, for service connected disability with the VA, they’ll often send them for compensation and pension exams and a lot of times they’ll do hearing testing if that’s what you’re filing for. So if you have that testing done, that’s all you need. If you have not had that testing done, then you can go to anywhere that does a hearing test. I know some sometimes big stores like Costco or Sam’s have hearing tests and then obviously there are audiologists that you can go to and get hearing tests done. But it’s best to have that done when you come in because that just kind of makes it open and shut. We know that this is, but as far as evaluating the case open and shut, not necessarily law, litigation can go on for a little while, but as far as evaluating the case, if you have that hearing testing, it’s very easy to say, this is when I served, this is what my hearing is, let’s proceed.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. So we really want to get the word out to veterans because this is, as you said, so widespread-
Laura Holland: Yes. Exactly.
Cindy Speaker: … and the veterans that are experiencing hearing loss, have seen that, suspect that, veterans I’m speaking with you, please get the word out amongst yourselves as well, family members, they need to get tested and honestly, Laura, how can they reach out to you? Because I know that you’re handling a lot of these cases and can be helpful. What’s the best way to reach you?
Laura Holland: Our phone number is (251) 343-1111 and that is the best way to contact us to speak with us about your claim and have it evaluated. We are currently accepting cases to evaluate and accepting intakes and looking at those and we would love to help anyone who’s having issues with their hearing, with Tinnitus, any of that. Because like I said, this is just an awful example of corporate greed, but it is also an example of how whistle blower laws go, right? That brave person who stood up and said, this isn’t right, the public needs to know about this and the US government needs to know about this. So, it’s just very important that you contact us if you have any of those, notice or noticing any of those symptoms as far as hearing loss and served between 2003 and 2015.
Cindy Speaker: Very good. Laura, listen, thanks for the information today. Thanks for taking the time to be with us. I know you’re really busy. I’m glad we could grab you for a few minutes here.
Laura Holland: Yes, it was nice talking with you, Cindy.
Cindy Speaker: You too. And to those of you that are watching either live or by replay, please share this to the pages of your friends and family that may have served in the military during these years. We really want to get the word out so that people can get the help and benefits that they deserve. Thanks everybody.
Laura Holland: Thank you.
Cindy Speaker: Bye now.
Laura Holland: Bye.