Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Federal MDL Against Hair Relaxer Manufacturers

Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Federal MDL Against Hair Relaxer Manufacturers

Many users of hair relaxers have suffered severe health conditions, such as uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cancer, because of hazardous chemicals in hair relaxer products. Victims of adverse health conditions that consistently used hair relaxers have filed hair relaxer lawsuits to hold manufacturers like L’Oreal, Namaste Laboratories, and Strength of Nature accountable for failure to warn of dangerous side effects. These companies failed to notify consumers about the cancer risk associated with their products and therefore can be considered liable in a product liability lawsuit. 

On August 15th, hair relaxer plaintiffs filed a consolidated class action complaint with over 145 counts of allegations of wrongdoing by hair relaxer manufacturers. The complaint alleges hair relaxer defendants failed to inform the plaintiffs about the dangers of hair relaxers adequately. With this information, plaintiffs could have avoided the dangerous products and prevented themselves from suffering hormone-sensitive health issues. Plaintiffs seek economic damages, non-economic damages, and for the defendants to pay for medical monitoring to allow early detection of cancer in hair relaxer users.

Can Hair Relaxers Cause Cancer?

A hair relaxer is a lotion or cream applied to the scalp that can help women with tight curls relax their hair so it can be straightened. This type of hair care product is predominantly used by black women and became popular due to eurocentric beauty standards for straight hair. However, a recent study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests consistent hair relaxer use can expose women to cancer risk.

The NIH study used data from 33,497 women participating in the Sister Study, which collected yearly questionnaires regarding each woman’s use of hair care products and health conditions. They found that women who used hair relaxers at least four times a year doubled their risk of uterine cancer

The issue with hair relaxers and why they can increase cancer risk is the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that can cause hormone imbalance. EDCs like phthalates can enter a women’s body through scalp absorption, lead to hormone imbalance, and cause abnormal cell growth in a women’s reproductive organs. Some hormone-sensitive health issues caused by hair relaxers include ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis. 

Hair Relaxer MDL Seeks to Hold Manufacturers Accountable for Damages

Women who suffered adverse health conditions after consistent use of hair relaxers have filed hair relaxers lawsuits to hold manufacturers accountable for their negligence. Manufacturers like L’Oreal, Godrej Consumers Products, and Namaste Laboratories failed to warn consumers about the cancer risk presented by their products. Women have filed lawsuits for compensation for economic and non-economic damages caused by their adverse health conditions.

After many women filed hair relaxer lawsuits, the plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate all lawsuits into a multi-district litigation (MDL). The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation eventually agreed upon consolidation and created a hair relaxer MDL before U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois. 

Class Action Complaint Filed by Hair Relaxer Plaintiffs

On August 15th, the hair relaxer MDL plaintiffs filed a consolidated hair relaxer class action complaint containing 145 allegations of negligence from hair relaxer manufacturers. The detailed document outlined why hair relaxer manufacturers should be held liable for damages caused to consumers for failing to notify them about the harmful chemicals in their products that could cause cancer. 

The class action complaint asserts that the unsafe hair relaxer products are, “defective, adulterated, misbranded and dangerous to human health, unfit and unsuitable to be advertised, marketed, and sold in the United States and lack a proper warning associated with use.” They allege that failing to disclose information about the cancer risk associated with the products is a violation of state and federal law. The main contention from the plaintiffs is that if they knew about the cancer risk associated with the product, they would not have used them consistently.

What Damages Are Hair Relaxer Plaintiffs Seeking?

The plaintiffs in the hair relaxer class action seek compensation for damages caused by the negligence of the hair relaxer defendants. By failing to notify consumers about the health risks associated with hair relaxers, the plaintiffs suffered economic and non-economic losses that they believe the defendants should have to pay.

Hair relaxer plaintiffs have suffered economic damages from wage-based losses and medical expenses. Their adverse health condition may have required them to take time off of work or possibly lose their job. They also may have required surgery like a hysterectomy, which can cost a lot of money.

The non-economic damages caused by cancer diagnosis after hair relaxer use have to do with negative effects on the plaintiffs’ quality of life. They can experience psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, after experiencing such a traumatic health event. Hysterectomies can also make it so a woman cannot become pregnant, which can have a negative effect on a woman’s mental health.

The following are the damages pursued by hair relaxer plaintiffs:

  • Medical bills
  • Medical monitoring costs
  • Refunds for hair relaxer expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of society

Hair Relaxer Plaintiffs Seek Medical Monitoring Coverage

Plaintiffs that filed the hair relaxer master complaint are seeking economic and non-economic damages caused by a cancer diagnosis. However, one specific damage the plaintiffs want the defendants to cover is expenses associated with medical monitoring. The plaintiffs believe the defendants should have to pay the costs to cover for medical monitoring that will allow for tests to detect cancer in hair relaxer users.

The medical monitoring plan that the plaintiffs desire would include, “(a) establishing a trust fund, in an amount to be determined, to pay for the medical monitoring of the members of the Medical Monitoring Classes for the purpose of diagnosis, as frequently and appropriately as necessary; and (b) notifying all members of the Medical Monitoring Classes in writing that they may require frequent medical monitoring for purpose of diagnosis.”

Contact an Experienced Product Liability Lawyer to Help With Your Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

Those diagnosed with cancer after using hair relaxers can file short-form complaints to join the hair relaxer MDL directly. However, the process of a consolidated lawsuit can be long and complicated. This means someone without litigation experience may require legal counsel that can help explain the process and guide them through the steps required on the path to receiving a settlement.

Hiring a product liability lawyer can help with the process of joining the hair relaxer MDL. They can calculate the value of your lawsuit, help you file the proper paperwork to directly join the MDL, share resources with other lawyers, and help you recover compensation from a global settlement. Contact a local product liability lawyer with mass tort experience that can help you join the hair relaxer MDL.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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