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3M to pay $6 billion to settle claims it sold defective earplugs to U.S. military

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Manufacturing giant 3M on Tuesday said it will pay $6 billion to resolve legal claims over its Combat Arms Earplug products, which some military veterans claimed left them with hearing loss and tinnitus. 

3M said in a statement that the settlement, which resolves claims against 3M and Aearo Technologies, “is not an admission of liability.” It added that the products are “safe and effective when used properly” and that it would defend itself in court if the terms of the settlement aren’t fulfilled. 

Under the agreement, 3M will pay $5 billion in cash and $1 billion in 3M common stock between 2023 and 2029. The company said it will take a pre-tax charge of $4.2 billion in the third quarter because of the settlement.

The agreement comes after veterans claimed the Combat Arms Earplug products left them with hearing loss and tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, after using the devices in close proximity to small arms, heavy artillery and rockets. One veteran told CBS News in 2019 that the effect of tinnitus, which he believed he developed after using the 3M earplugs, was “torture.”

“What is quiet? What’s peace? I know for me personally, I don’t have it. All I hear is ringing if there’s no noise around me,” Joseph Junk, who served in the U.S. military for three years, told CBS News. “If I do not have noise around me, it’s maddening. It is torture.”

This is a developing story.

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