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Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

Chemical hair relaxer lawsuits claim that hair straightening products made by L'Oréal and other companies cause cancer and other health issues. According to lawsuits, manufacturers failed to warn that their products could increase the risk of uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer.

This is an active lawsuit

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Last Modified: July 1, 2024
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Latest Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Updates

As of July 2024, there are 8,192 chemical hair relaxer lawsuits pending in multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois. A total of 9,011 cases have been filed.

Lawyers expect many more people to file chemical hair relaxer lawsuits and are still accepting cases. So far, there have been no trials or global settlements approved in the Illinois MDL.

Timeline of Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

  • June 2024:
    L'Oréal, SoftSheen-Carson and Strength of Nature lost an appeal to dismiss Kiara Burroughs' lawsuit in Georgia. Her lawsuit claims defendants to warn the public about toxic chemicals in their products that can cause uterine fibroids. According to our review of the decision of the appeals court, the issues defendants brought up included whether the claim should be preempted by federal law and whether the statutes of limitations and Georgia statutes of repose prohibited Burroughs' claim from proceeding.

    The Georgia trial court denied the defendants' original motion to dismiss, and defendants appealed. The Georgia Appeals Court ruled that the case could proceed, in part, with claims including the fraud and negligence counts and it remanded the case back to trial court for further rulings. From our experience reporting on these motions to dismiss, it's not uncommon for the Court to dismiss some counts but allow the case to proceed on others where it deems the law applies. This is a Georgia state case and isn't a part of the MDL in Illinois.
  • May 2024:
    The judge appointed Professor Maura Grossman as special master. Attorneys for defendant Revlon and related companies filed their notice of appearance. Discovery continued.
  • February 2024:
    Lawsuits were in the discovery phase. Because there were thousands of lawsuits, this process can be lengthy.
  • January 2024:
    Plaintiffs continued to file lawsuits. Both sides were working on their bellwether test trial protocols, and plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery from defendant L'Oréal USA.
  • November 2023:
    Seeing exponential growth, there were 7,967 pending lawsuits in the Illinois MDL.
  • August 2023:
    Thirty-nine additional hair relaxer cancer lawsuits were pending in the Illinois MDL.
  • July 2023:
    Over 230 cases were pending in the Illinois hair relaxer MDL.
  • June 2023:
    With a total of 152 lawsuits originally filed, 149 cases were pending in the Illinois MDL.
  • March 2023:
    By March 2023, 78 cases were pending in the Illinois MDL.
  • February 2023:
    The U.S. Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all hair relaxer lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois.
  • January 2023:
    Tamara Sigars filed a lawsuit against L'Oréal and other companies after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
  • November 2022:
    Lawyers filed a motion to consolidate all hair relaxer lawsuits in multidistrict litigation in Illinois.
  • November 2022:
    Carla G. Rose and Dollie Dillon filed a class action against Dabur International and Namaste Laboratories to recuperate the purchase price of hair straightening products.
  • October 2022:
    Jenny Mitchell became one of the first women to file a hair relaxer lawsuit against L'Oréal and other companies after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
  • October 2022:
    An NIH-funded study found women who use hair relaxers have an increased risk of uterine cancer, breast cancer, fibroids and other serious conditions.
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The Illinois MDL began with more than a dozen individual injury cases. Defendants also face an Illinois class action that demands L’Oréal and other companies reimburse plaintiffs for the full purchase price of the defective products.

Why Are People Filing Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuits?

People are filing chemical hair relaxer lawsuits because they claim these hair straightening products have increased the risk of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer and to a lesser extent, ovarian cancer. Women who were diagnosed with these cancers after using chemical hair relaxers may qualify to file a lawsuit.

Those affected by these chemical hair relaxers began filing lawsuits after a 2022 National Institutes of Health study found the risk of uterine cancer was higher in women who used chemical hair straightening products.

Women who used these products more than four times a year had more than double the risk of uterine cancer, according to the NIH study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In addition to uterine cancer, other studies have linked chemical hair relaxers to an increased risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis and breast cancer.

Mike, who is omitting his last name for privacy, told Drugwatch about his late wife’s experience with chemical hair straighteners.

“If there were a warning on those products, my wife Michele Lynn wouldn’t have kept using them. She would have stopped immediately. These companies put money before people’s lives, and all they care about is what’s hitting their bank account,” he said.

Who Are the Lawsuits’ Plaintiffs?

Thirty-two-year-old Jenny Mitchell was one of the first women to file a lawsuit in October 2022 after doctors diagnosed her with uterine cancer. Her lawsuit claimed that her uterine cancer “was directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Defendants’ hair care products.”

Since then, thousands of women have filed claims against chemical hair straightener manufacturers. Many of them are in their 20s and 30s, according to product liability attorney Daniel Nigh.

“We have one client who developed endometrial cancer. And as a result, had to have certain surgeries and certain treatment, and was unable to have children because of it. Maybe she could have had a child before the age of 25. But she wouldn’t have known that she needed to have a child before that. So, she’s 25. Huge emotional impact to have to discover that. And what she had planned for her life, she had talked about having three children, and things of that nature. And she’s not going to be able to do that,” Nigh said.

Chemical Hair Straightener Marketing Controversy

Companies being sued include L’Oréal, Strength of Nature and Soft Sheen. Lawsuits claim that these products were heavily marketed to Black women, who are more likely to use chemical hair relaxers.

“Essentially, the idea was to have more of a European look with straightened hair. [Companies] heavily targeted Black women, and obviously other communities of color, as well, for a long period of time, and from a very young age,” said Nigh.

 

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Who Is Eligible To File a Lawsuit?

Product liability attorney Trent Miracle explains who qualifies for a chemical hair straightener lawsuit.

You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if you used a chemical hair relaxer and received a diagnosis of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer. Only a licensed attorney can tell you if you are eligible.

A chemical hair relaxer lawyer may ask you about your experience with chemical hair straightening products. If you have any receipts or medical records, make sure you have these with you when you speak to an attorney. If you aren’t sure about your diagnosis, the lawyer may be able to help you obtain medical records.

If you are interested in filing a lawsuit, speak to an attorney right away. There may be a time limit to file a claim. If time runs out, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit.

Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Q&A With Attorney Ashleigh Raso

Attorney Ashleigh Raso
Ashleigh Raso Mass Torts & Product Liability Attorney

Mass torts and product liability attorney Ashleigh Raso, partner at award-winning firm Nigh Goldenberg Raso & Vaughn, answered three important questions about what you should know if you are thinking of filing a chemical hair straightener lawsuit.

When clients contact you for a chemical hair relaxer case evaluation, what should they expect?

They can expect that we will gather some information from them, such as when and how often they used the products, which products they used and what types of injuries they have experienced. If we believe they have a case, we will order medical records.

Unfortunately, the science is still developing in these cases so not everyone who used hair relaxers was impacted will be a part of this litigation. However, our consultations are free, and it is better to contact us sooner as the two-year anniversary of the FDA notice is coming up in fall of 2024 and many states have a two-year statute of limitations.

What is the status of these lawsuits?

These cases are currently consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois as well as various state courts. The case is currently in discovery. Discovery is the process by which the parties exchange and collect information from each other and build their case. This process takes a long time and in this case with many defendants and millions of pages of documents, it will take some time.

How your clients have been affected by cancer caused by chemical hair relaxers?

Many of our clients have lost loved ones far too soon. Some clients are dealing with cancer and sickness, and they try to navigate life as fully as possible. These women are remarkable, and what they have been through is awful.

Cancer Risks Increased by Chemical Hair Relaxers

Currently, lawyers are only accepting cases for chemical hair relaxer lawsuits related to uterine, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Lawyers say that could change when more scientific evidence is present for other cancers or conditions.

Researchers have found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, in chemical hair relaxers are to blame for increased cancer risk. Besides cancer, studies have also linked chemical hair straighteners to endometriosis and uterine fibroids, though these injuries on their own are not being accepted for hair relaxer lawsuits.

Daniel Nigh
“…One of the things that makes this tort somewhat unique and very problematic is that exposure at such a young age is what has led to cancers occurring at such a young age.”
Daniel Nigh mass torts and products liability attorney

According to researchers, women who use the products more than four times a year, or every five to eight weeks, have the greatest risk of developing uterine cancer. Phthalates, parabens and a very toxic chemical called DEHP are some of the cancer-causing chemicals in hair straighteners.

“I handle a lot of different cancer cases across a lot of mass tort projects. And one of the things that makes this tort somewhat unique and very problematic is that exposure at such a young age is what has led to cancers occurring at such a young age. And these cancers are the type of cancers that cause women of childbearing age to not be able to have children. Many of our clients are in their 20s and 30s,” Nigh told Drugwatch.

Studies Linking Chemical Hair Straighteners To Cancer

The 2022 NIH study found women who use the products more than four times in 12 months have more than double the uterine cancer risk. Scientists studied data from 33,947 women aged 35 to 74. They found that women who reported using hair straighteners had higher incidence rates of uterine cancer than those who did not use straighteners.

A recent study from December 2023 published in Environmental Research looked at chemical relaxer use in 44,798 Black women from 1997 to 2019. Researchers found that “long-term use of chemical hair relaxers was associated with increased risk of uterine cancer among postmenopausal women, but not among premenopausal women. These findings suggest that hair relaxer use may be a potentially modifiable risk factor for uterine cancer.”

A 2019 NIH study also linked chemical hair straighteners to an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers found a 30% increased risk of breast cancer in women who used chemical hair straighteners every five to eight weeks.

Cosmetic Brands in Lawsuits

Cosmetic brands in chemical hair straightener lawsuits include L’Oréal products and popular brands such as Soft & Beautiful and Dark and Lovely. These are permanent hair straighteners.

“Defendants knew or should have known that their hair relaxer products were dangerous and defective because they contain highly toxic EDCs and they manufactured, marketed and sold them anyway,” according to lawsuits.

Chemical hair straightener brands named in lawsuits include:
  • Dark and Lovely
  • Just for Me
  • L'Oréal
  • Motions
  • Namaste
  • Olive Oil Girls
  • Optimum
  • Soft & Beautiful
  • Strength of Nature Global LLC
  • TCB Naturals

These brands are popular among Black women, who are more likely to use chemical hair relaxers.

“Sixty percent of the participants who reported using straighteners were Black women. The bottom line is that the exposure burden appears to be higher among Black women,” said Chandra Jackson, one of the NIH study’s co-authors.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.