Following dozens of chemical hair-straightening lawsuits filed against L’Oreal and other manufacturers, plaintiffs’ attorneys told a hearing before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) they are investigating thousands of similar claims, filed predominantly by African American women. The plaintiffs’ attorneys are requesting that the cases be consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) before one judge.
Plaintiffs claim that exposure to the chemicals in hair-straightening products such as Dark & Lovely, Just For Me, ORS Olive Oil, and Optimum caused them to develop cancer of the uterus, breast or ovaries. Claims of developing uterine fibroids, endometrial cancer or endometriosis were also presented to the JPML at the end of January. Many hair-straightening personal injury claims have been for uterine fibroids, which often require the removal of the uterus (a hysterectomy) in order to treat the condition.
Chemical hair product litigation, which also includes a potential dry shampoo class action against Unilever, began after an October 2022 study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which revealed the first epidemiological evidence of an association between the use of hair-straightening products and uterine cancer. The study, which analyzed data over a 10-year period involving nearly 34,000 women, found that the rate of uterine cancer was almost three times higher for women who regularly applied the chemicals in the hair-relaxing products to their hair.
To date, approximately 100 hair relaxer lawsuits have been filed. The hearing before the JPML took place Jan. 27 and the panel is expected sometime in February to rule whether the MDL is warranted, and if so, which U.S. District Court will coordinate the litigation.
Manufacturers of chemical hair-straightening products assert that the cases should not be consolidated due to the fact that the litigation covers several different products and personal injury claims. However, plaintiffs have stated that the JPML routinely consolidates cases where there are several defendants and multiple products.
Plaintiffs also accuse the manufacturers of deliberately marketing their products to African American women.