Hair relaxer suits say companies knew products contained dangerous chemicalsNearly 80 lawsuits have now been filed which claim hair relaxer products from L’Oréal and other companies can cause cancer and other serious health problems. Lawyers at Matthews & Associates expect the number of new cases to grow into the hundreds by the end of summer 2023.
The first status conference in the hair relaxer litigation was held last month in the newly formed multi district litigation court in Chicago. The competing sides began to address four main issues:
- They agreed to meet and confer about how to develop a unified and efficient complaint form for filing proposals. They also proposed a deadline for filing proposals and meeting and conferring on the issue.
- The PLC agreed to provide a draft Direct Filing Order to Defendants before March 14, 2023. The parties will submit an agreed-to proposed order. If they can’t reach an agreement, they will each submit their own proposals to the Court on or before March 31, 2023.
- The lawyers disagree on the issue of bifurcation and conducting general causation first. Parties propose a deadline for submitting briefing to the Court.
- The parties agreed to meet and confer on federal and state court coordination, probate matters, a preservation order, a plan for discovery of digitally stored information, a protection order.
Most of the cases will now be consolidated in a Chicago federal court, according to an order issued last month by the US judicial panel on multidistrict litigation.
Prior to consolidation in the MDL, courts across the country accepted the filings over the hair relaxer products that use chemicals designed to permanently straighten textured hair. The lawsuits charge that the companies knew their products contained dangerous chemicals, yet marketed and sold them regardless of that knowledge.
U.S. District Judge judge Mary Rowland is overseeing the MDL, which is meant to streamline discovery efforts, help reduce duplicative evidence and other pretrial issues for the cases.
The cases name as defendants the US subsidiary of L’Oréal SA and subsidiaries of India-based companies Godrej SON Holdings Inc. and Dabur International Ltd. Representatives for those companies opposed centralization of the cases into an MDL.
L’Oreal responded in a statement online after the first lawsuits were filed. The company said it is “confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”
Injuries in the hair relaxer litigation include:
- Uterine cancer
- Endometrial cancer/endometriosis
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cancer
Claims have also been filed against the makers of other brands of hair relaxers over the alleged link to ovarian cancer and uterine fibroids. Those products include:
- Dark & Lovely
- Just for Me
- Other widely-used brands
Study shows Cancer Rates up to three times greater
The hair straightener lawsuits came into being after the October 2022 publication of an NIH study which found women who used the products several times a year more than doubled their risk of developing uterine cancer.
That study’s leader, Alexandra White, of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health, said in a statement: “We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70, but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%.”
The CDC says uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in the US. Rates are rising, especially among Black women.
Some plaintiffs’ lawyers estimate that thousands of women could end up suing L’Oreal and other companies in the litigation, especially Black women who are most often the targets for hair-straightener product sales.