With more hair relaxer lawsuits filed, multidistrict litigation panel to weigh consolidation

Staff members work at a hair salon of L’Oreal in Beijing
Staff members work at a hair salon of L’Oreal in Beijing, China November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
  • More than 50 cases allege injuries from hair relaxers
  • Plaintiffs say products caused uterine cancer and other reproductive health problems for women

(Reuters) - Lawyers representing women who say they developed uterine cancer and other health problems after using chemical hair relaxing products sold by L'Oreal USA Inc and other companies will urge the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate their lawsuits at a hearing in Miami today.

Court records show at least 54 cases have been filed in federal courts across the country over the products, which claim to permanently straighten textured hair. The suits follow the October release of a study done by The National Institutes of Health that found women who used the products several times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer.

The cases, which include some class actions, name L’Oreal and subsidiaries of India-based companies Godrej SON Holdings Inc and Dabur International Ltd. Representatives and attorneys for the companies did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement posted online after the first lawsuits were filed, L’Oreal said it is "confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit."

Consolidating the cases would mean a single federal judge would oversee them, streamlining decision-making on discovery and other pretrial issues.

Hair relaxers are typically marketed to people of color, and are often used beginning in childhood, according to Diandra Debrosse Zimmermann of DiCello Levitt, who filed the first case over the products just a few days after the study came out.

Debrosse Zimmermann, who says her firm is representing thousands of clients with these claims, will argue for consolidating the cases in Chicago federal court before either U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland or U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, who is on the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation.

The companies have opposed consolidation, with L’Oreal calling the lawsuits “amorphous complaints” that blame a collection of different ailments on “undisclosed chemicals in undisclosed products.” If the panel decides to consolidate, L’Oreal, Dabur and Godrej are asking that the case be centralized in Manhattan, with L’Oreal and Dabur requesting U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni.

The panel typically issues its decisions within two weeks of the hearing, according to Debrosse Zimmermann.

The case is In re Hair Relaxer Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, MDL No. 3060,

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