Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation Considers Hair Straightener Lawsuit Consolidation

Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation Considers Hair Straightener Lawsuit Consolidation

A growing number of women claim that the makers of chemical hair straighteners negligently marketed their products to women, particularly women of color, without providing a warning label alerting them that using these products increases their risk of certain types of cancer. Women are seeking compensation for damages like medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress after being diagnosed with various cancers of the reproductive system and other health issues. 

Plaintiffs in the hair straightener cancer lawsuits recently filed a motion to request the consolidation of their claims into a multidistrict litigation. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is in the process of hearing oral arguments from both sides. If you have reason to believe that your reproductive health issues are related to long-term chemical hair straightener use, you should consider taking legal action. Our product liability attorneys offer free consultations where we can explain the personal injury claims process and answer any questions you may have.

Plaintiffs Claim Chemical Hair Straighteners Caused Their Cancer

Multiple studies have linked the frequent usage of chemical hair straighteners to hormone-sensitive cancers of the reproductive system, attributing it to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in these products. In a study conducted by the National Health Institute, researchers found that women who reported using chemical hair straighteners 4 or more times a year were at double the risk of developing uterine cancer

Other studies have echoed concerns over carcinogenic chemicals in chemical hair straighteners and connected them to other serious health conditions. The reproductive health issues associated with heavy chemical hair straightener usage include:

For context, it is not unusual for women with curly hair to use at-home chemical hair straighteners or receive salon treatments multiple times a year starting from a young age. What this means in effect is that many women, particularly Black women, have been unknowingly exposing themselves to cancer-causing chemicals multiple times a year, for years on end. These EDCs can cause damage to healthy cells, resulting in cancer when mutated cells reproduce uncontrollably. 

Women Sue Negligent Chemical Hair Straightener Makers

The plaintiffs in the chemical hair straightener lawsuits allege that beauty companies like L’Oreal should have been aware of the carcinogens and damaging chemicals in their products. They argue that the defendants, therefore, had a responsibility to provide warning labels on their products. As the plaintiffs in the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits are making very similar allegations against beauty companies like L’Oreal and have suffered comparable injuries, they are pushing for a multidistrict litigation

How an MDL Would Benefit Plaintiffs

Multidistrict litigations are often used as a tool to handle a large volume of similar claims against a defendant or group of defendants. Situations where a defendant has harmed a significant number of plaintiffs in the same way are known as mass tort litigation. In a multidistrict litigation, plaintiffs can share expert witnesses and work together to compile evidence. This allows individual plaintiffs who might otherwise have been at a disadvantage compared to a large corporation to share resources and even the playing field.

Additionally, plaintiffs do not have to simply accept an equal share of a lump sum as they would in a class action lawsuit. Instead, individual plaintiffs will be compensated according to their damages. While the accusations of negligence against chemical hair straightener makers are similar, the impact of a cancer diagnosis can differ greatly between plaintiffs, and this is a more fair way to offer reimbursement in this situation.

Why Defendants Like L’Oreal Object to the MDL

Thus far, defendants like L’Oreal have continued to support their products and reject claims that they contain carcinogens. Their primary objections are that the studies plaintiffs are using to support their claims did not collect data on specific products or brands. Without this information, they argue that it is unfair to expect the companies named in the claims to be held liable for damages that may or may not have resulted from their specific products. 

The defendants also claim that product liability lawsuits fail to name specific chemicals that are allegedly responsible for the plaintiffs’ health issues, calling into question whether plaintiffs can meet the burden of proof. Additionally, they have protested that there are not enough plaintiffs to constitute an MDL. So far, 54 claims have been filed in federal court, and that number is expected to grow.

Damages in a Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuit

If plaintiffs are successful in holding beauty companies liable for negligence, they may owe plaintiffs and their families significant compensation for their damages. The damages will almost certainly be both economic and non-economic in nature. Economic damages can offer plaintiffs some financial relief for their monetary losses, like non-economic damages are intended to compensate for the emotional losses sustained due to the defendant’s negligence.

Examples of Damages in a Chemical hair Straightener Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Reduced earning capacity
    • Missed promotions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death

The value of your damages will depend on how your losses have impacted your life in regard to things like your physical and mental health, your career, your hobbies, and your quality of life. For example, two women who both developed uterine cancer as a result of using chemical hair straighteners and underwent hysterectomies may still receive different settlement sums if they were affected to different degrees. 

Let’s say the first woman was 28 and needed a hysterectomy before she had the opportunity to have biological children, as in the case of plaintiff Jenny Mitchell. The second woman was 68 and retired with three grown children when she underwent her hysterectomy. In this comparison, a plaintiff in the first woman’s position would likely receive more compensation.

What’s Next for Hair Straightener Cancer Plaintiffs

If the JPML approves the plaintiff’s requests for an MDL in this month’s hearing, it will then decide which court should have jurisdiction over the claims. Representatives for the plaintiffs have expressed a preference for transferring the claims to the Chicago federal court system, with U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland or U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly presiding.

The representatives for the defendants have opposed the call for an MDL, but if the JPML decides to consolidate the chemical hair straightener claims they have requested that the cases be transferred to Manhattan under U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni’s jurisdiction. After that, the court overseeing the chemical hair relaxer claims will oversee the discovery and pre-trial processes. Then, they will begin bellwether trials, which will give both sides a better idea of what a chemical hair straightener claim may be worth.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer or other reproductive health issues after the repeated use of chemical hair straighteners, you should speak with a product liability attorney as soon as possible. Product liability lawyers will protect your right to seek compensation, investigate the defective product, calculate your damages, and negotiate on your behalf.


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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