South Carolina-based U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon settled a civil lawsuit July 26 for $9.1 million with 3M Company to resolve accusations that it knowingly sold defective earplugs to the United States military.
Lydon was joined in bringing the lawsuit by the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense.
In the suit, the plaintiffs alleged that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency that were too short for proper insertion, causing them to loosen and stop working.
“In this case…we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country,” Lydon said in a news release.
The allegations were brought in a lawsuit brought under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The act allows private groups to sue on behalf of the government when they believe the defendants submitted false claims to receive government funds. It also allows them to share in the recovery. As a result, whistleblower Moldex-Metric will receive $1.9 million of the settlement. Moldex-Metric filed the suit in South Carolina federal court.
A representative from 3M said in an email that the faulty earplug model has been discontinued and that the settlement frees employees to focus on their normal work duties.
“We take great pride in our products and this resolution is not an admission of liability, but simply a decision to move forward with our mission to provide high-quality personal safety equipment products to our customers,” the representative said.