Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazine Executive Editor Farron Cousins take a look at defense contractor 3M that scammed the federal government and sold ear plugs that have left countless U.S. troops with permanent hearing damage.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             For centuries, defense contractors have been ripping off the federal government by providing shoddy work and defective products. The latest example of this is the ear plugs sold by the company 3M that’s left US soldiers with permanent hearing problems. 3M again, you know, so in a nutshell, the government says we want a product that will protect the hearing of our soldiers from this, you know, the AK 47 sounds, bomb sounds, heavy equipment sounds, because so many soldiers are coming back with hearing loss.

It’s the number one disability claim out of people that are coming back from, from places like Iraq and Afghanistan. So 3M says, we got just the thing for ya. Let, let’s sell it to you. Now, what, as you look at this, doesn’t this sounds just like all the other cases we see where a contractor tells the government, we’re going to deliver this for you and its junk?

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly. 3M did not do what they were supposed to do, did not deliver a product that was actually going to help soldiers. They knew according to, you know, a settlement they’ve already had actually with the government that their devices were not manufactured and designed properly to actually close off someone’s ear so that it would prevent these noises. So look, I mean the numbers here are absolutely startling.

You’ve got veterans are 30 percent more likely than non vets to have severe hearing impairment. Those who have served after 2001, they’re four times more likely to have military hearing loss. And as of 2014, we’ve got 933,000 vets receiving disability for hearing loss and 1.3 million receiving compensation for Tinnitus. And this is a, a ringing in the ear. And that’s what this lawsuit is about. It’s causing, causing this.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s not just ringing in the ear. I mean, it’s so bad that people can’t sleep.

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s so bad it, it actually interferes with their cognitive abilities. It’s not just something minor.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, you cannot function anymore because all you can hear, all you can focus on is this noise. You know, static ringing, whatever it is in your ear. That is in your head 24 hours a day.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, now, let’s talk about 3M here while we’re on this topic. There’s a, there’s a movie out and I’m not, it’s a movie about a case that I tried up in Ohio. It’s called The Devil We Know and it tells you the story of C8. Pick it up from there, C8 and 3M.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. 3M was the company that actually made C8 for DuPont. DuPont later bought it up, but 3M was making this chemical they knew was highly toxic. They knew could give people cancer.

Mike Papantonio:             They use it to make Teflon.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, right. And so 3M has this horrible history of making products they know are going to hurt people. Products they know that maybe they don’t work so well. So when we see this particular case about these earplugs, and they say, well, no, no, no, no, no. We did everything right. Really? You’re history tells us a different story here.

Mike Papantonio:             The history is, and I’ll tell you this history because there’s so many 3M type of defective products, cases goes, but this, this particular story is, is on Netflix right now. It’s called The Devil We Know. It kind of gives you an idea of what the mentality of these companies really are. 3M developed C8, they sold it to DuPont. DuPont just absolutely poisoned seven, the drinking water of 70,000 people. Caused cancer and gastrointestinal disease all, of all kinds.

But the point is it is a way of doing business that has started, it’s not recent. It’s, it’s you know, decades and decades. We’ve been seeing corporations saying, how far can we push the limits? On this, on this 3M case as the, on the hearing aid, the hearing loss aspect, I’m not sure it’s a case.

In other words, I’m not sure it’s something that somebody can go out and sue 3M for because there’s something called government contract defense and that is where the government said, this is what we want. The government, if anything, it’s a shame you can’t sue the government for it too because the government knew there were problems with the, with the, this item that was supposed to stop all these huge decibels from causing people to go deaf.

They knew the problem. They did their own testing and they let it go on anyway. In other words, they said to 3M, you know, we know you got a defective product here, but we’re the US government and by golly, we’re going to go forward with it anyway. Well, I mean we see that happen in these government contract cases.

Farron Cousins:                  We do and the sickest part here is that, yes, 3M did settle a case with the DOJ, $9.1 million. So the DOJ gets some of their money back. 3M gets to keep manufacturing their products and keeps government contracts, but the soldiers, the people who use the product as is often the case, they’re the ones suffering. They likely couldn’t get anything out of this. And so it’s the same story no matter what company.

Mike Papantonio:             And, and the same story also, the cost shifts to taxpayers, right? Cause taxpayers have to pay for the disability for the product that was manufactured by a corporation that’s making billions that the government buys and says, you know, with a nod and a wink. Yeah, we’re okay with that. Sell it to us anyway. It’s the same story. Told over and over again. Again, I’m not sure this is a lawsuit. It might be. We’ll see as this thing develops. We’ll take a closer look at the contracts. Farron, thanks for joining me. These stories, I don’t think they’re stories that people hear except for shows like this.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.