In response to a master complaint filed in May by plaintiffs in the hair relaxer multidistrict litigation, some manufacturers of the named products, including ORS Olive Oil, Dark & Lovely, Just for Me, and Optimum, have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, which allege that their products are associated with higher rates of uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, endometriosis and other injuries. 

Manufacturers including L'Oréal, Revlon, Strength of Nature, and Namaste joined together in the motion to dismiss the product liability lawsuits, of which approximately 250 have been filed, with thousands more expected to join them should the MDL reach the discovery stage. 

The manufacturers argued in their motion that the plaintiffs’ Master Personal Injury Complaint insufficiently identifies the specific ingredient formulations and products that were allegedly responsible for the injuries plaintiffs suffered. 

The hair relaxer/hair straightener lawsuit MDL was approved in February and is being overseen before U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois. The Master Complaint highlights all of the common allegations raised in claims being pursued by women, mostly African American, who allege that they developed uterine or ovarian cancer because of regular exposure to hormone-altering synthetic chemical compounds in the products. The plaintiffs claim that they were not warned about the risk of developing cancer associated with the use of the named hair-relaxing products. 

The MDL is currently in the pre-trial phase. A discovery schedule is being coordinated by Judge Rowland and the parties involved in the MDL. Attorneys for the defendants are seeking a two-phase discovery process, with the first phase concerning the evidence linking direct causation rather than correlation between hair relaxers and cancer. If causation is established during this phase, only then would other factors in the discovery process proceed if the defendants’ plan is accepted. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argue this bifurcated discovery process is merely a delay tactic.  

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