According to the lawsuit that the woman and her partner filed, Jackie Brownlee, 64, frequently used hair straightening products. The couple’s lawsuit complaint, filed on Nov. 22, 2023, says Ms. Brownlee used the products from 1973 right up until she was diagnosed and treated for cancer beginning in 2010.
The suit alleges a direct link between Ms. Brownlee’s cancer and her frequent use of hair straightening products from L’Oreal, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., and their subsidiaries.
The complaint reads: “There was never any indication, on the products’ packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause [the plaintiff] to develop uterine cancer. As a result of using defendants’ products. . . Brownlee was caused to suffer from uterine cancer on or about September 2010 and was caused to sustain severe and permanent personal injuries, pain, suffering, and emotional distress.”
Ms. Brownlee and her spouse Jerri Peebles have brought several claims that include:
- defective design
- failure to warn
- breach of express and implied warranty,
- fraudulent misrepresentation
- loss of consortium.
The couple seeks an unnamed amount in damages.
The lawsuit is one of the latest over hair straightener products. At least nine other lawsuits have been filed throughout the U.S., according to a filing by the plaintiffs’ attorneys which requests that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate the claims in Chicago.
L’Oreal said in an October 2022 statement: “[W]e are confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”
The Ohio couple’s 71-page suit contains a history of hair straightener products’ use, especially among Black women. It also details the risks of some chemicals found in them. According to the petition, Black people comprise 22% of the $42 billion-a-year personal care products market. That’s surprising because the group comprises roughly just 13% of the U.S. population. Those numbers help show why the Black community is targeted for the sale of hair straightener products.
Study shows Frequent Hair Straightener Users double Uterine Cancer Risk
The petition cites several studies in support of its allegations that the hair straightening products are linked to cancer. One study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published on Oct. 17 shows that frequent hair straightening product users were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who did not use those products.
The petition says the study that shows cancer risk doubling for users was conducted by the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It also alleges that some chemicals can enter the body through scalp burns and lesions the straighteners cause.
It states: “Defendants’ representations and/or omissions were done with the intent of defrauding and deceiving plaintiff Jackie Brownlee and/or the public in general, and were made with the intent of inducing the public in general to purchase defendants’ products for chemically straightening and/or relaxing hair, all of which evinced a callous, reckless, willful, depraved indifference to health, safety, and welfare of the plaintiff.”
New Hair Relaxer Class Action Lawsuit Sought
On November 15, 2022, several attorneys who represent plaintiffs who have filed hair relaxer cancer lawsuits filed a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). Their motion has requested hair relaxer lawsuits be consolidated into a class action lawsuit.
That motion says nine hair relaxer cases have been filed in four different federal district courts that involve thirteen different plaintiffs. All those cases allege that hair relaxer products caused the claimants to develop uterine cancer. The motion also alleges that it has been common knowledge for years that hair relaxers can burn skin and give toxic chemicals access to the immune system.
The motion requests MDL assignment to Judge Mary Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois. Defendants named in that motion include L’Oreal USA, Inc. and a few smaller, non-public companies. The defendants were expected to agree to the class action; however, plaintiffs’ attorneys anticipate defendants will likely request an alternative venue to Chicago.
The Ohio case is Jackie Brownlee et al. v. L’Oreal USA Inc., case number 3:22-cv-00336, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.