Plaintiffs File Master Complaint for Chemical Hair Relaxer Claims

Plaintiffs File Master Complaint for Chemical Hair Relaxer Claims

In preparation for the next phase of the multidistrict litigation, representatives for women who claim they developed cancer from using chemical hair relaxers have filed a master complaint detailing their common issues. Chemical hair relaxer manufacturers are facing a slew of product liability lawsuits from women seeking compensation for damages like the cost of their medical bills, the emotional cost of losing their fertility, and lost wages. The claims are being considered as a multidistrict litigation due to their similarities in terms of allegations and injuries.

Product liability attorneys are coordinating their efforts to hold these negligent chemical hair relaxer manufacturers accountable for their failure to warn consumers. Even though the plaintiffs’ attorneys are working collaboratively, it is still in your best interest to obtain your own personal injury attorney to advocate for your individual needs. They will be able to assess the value of your damages and negotiate to maximize your compensation in a chemical hair relaxer cancer lawsuit.

Master Complaint Offers Overview of Plaintiffs’ Claims

As the chemical hair relaxer multidistrict litigation progresses under the oversight of U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland, plaintiffs have filed a Master Complaint. This document describes the common facts of the plaintiffs’ cases. When a new plaintiff joins, they can use the Master Complaint as a reference and opt into the portions that apply to their specific claim.

For example, the plaintiffs are accusing chemical hair relaxer makers of failing to warn them of the risks of using their products. They are relying on the premise that consumers are afforded certain protections under the law, and when companies fail to fulfill their duty of care to consumers they can potentially be held liable for the value of their damages.

Further, the representatives for the plaintiffs have criticized the chemical hair relaxer manufacturers as a group for taking advantage of the societal pressure for Black women, the primary demographic of their products, to have straight hair to be considered seriously. New plaintiffs who share similar sentiments can use this document to avoid the lengthy process of drafting their own from scratch. The use of the Master Complaint was approved by District Judge Rowland, as it helps to speed up the process of new plaintiffs joining the multidistrict litigation.

Multidistrict Litigation Progresses Under Judge’s Leadership

Plaintiffs in the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits lobbied for their claims to be condensed into a multidistrict litigation. The representatives for the defendants argued against a multidistrict litigation because they said the plaintiffs’ evidence lacked the necessary specificity to establish the liability of any one brand, and the injuries reported were too varied. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation held a hearing in January 2023 to determine whether or not it was appropriate to consolidate the claims. 

After considering arguments from women and beauty companies, the JPML ruled that a multidistrict litigation was the most suitable way to proceed with the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland was assigned to the MDL. With the number of plaintiffs involved in this claim, part of District Judge Rowland’s responsibility to plaintiffs is to set a reasonable pace for the cases to progress, especially considering that their injuries may be life-threatening. 

District Judge Rowland quickly appointed lead counsel to coordinate communication. She has also permitted new plaintiffs to directly file their claims under the multidistrict litigation to avoid the delay of having new claims transferred in from plaintiffs’ local jurisdictions. Beyond that, District Judge Rowland has taken the opportunity to create a leadership development committee to allow younger and less experienced lawyers to be mentored by personal injury attorneys about the work involved in a multidistrict litigation. 

Chemical Hair Relaxers Increase Women’s Likelihood of Reproductive Cancers

A growing body of evidence supports the conclusion that frequently using chemical hair straighteners can notably increase a woman’s lifetime risk of developing certain hormone-sensitive cancers. Researchers have found several toxic chemicals in hair relaxers, including formaldehyde. Many of these chemicals appear to be carcinogens. One NIH study warned that women who used chemical hair relaxers 4 or more times a year were doubling their risk of developing reproductive health issues like cancer. Specifically, exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals has been linked to:

For decades women, specifically women of color, have used chemical hair relaxers like African Pride Olive Miracle to style their naturally curly hair into a straightened look. As a result, it is not uncommon for a woman to use a chemical hair relaxer treatment multiple times a year for decades, increasing the exposure of Black women in particular. As hair relaxer lawsuits continue to be filed, plaintiffs and consumer advocates have called for beauty companies to pull their products from the market based on their risk to women’s health. Thus far, chemical hair relaxer manufacturers refuse to recall their defective products despite mounting evidence and legal pressure to do so.

Recovering Compensation for Damages in a Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

Women with cancer related to their use of chemical hair relaxers may be entitled to seek compensation for their damages in a product liability lawsuit. How much individual claims are worth will vary For many women in these claims, their damages are related to the process and consequences of treating their reproductive cancer. Cancer that originates in the uterus is regularly treated with a hysterectomy to ensure that the cancer does not spread. 

In effect, a woman who has a hysterectomy may now be responsible for medical bills related to her surgery and recovery, any consequences to her career while undergoing treatment and recovery, and she has to deal with the emotional cost of losing her ability to have children. Women in the chemical hair relaxer multidistrict litigation may be compensated for economic damages for the financial losses, as well as non-economic damages acknowledging their emotional losses.

Examples of Damages in a Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit:

  • Medical bills
    • Lab tests
    • Imaging
    • Medication
    • Surgery
    • Hospital stays
    • Chemotherapy
    • Hormone therapy
    • Radiation therapy
  • Job-related losses
    • Lost wages
    • Missed promotions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death 
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Loss of parental guidance and instruction 
    • Loss of services and support

Contact an Experienced Hair Relaxer Lawyer

If you have reason to believe that your cancer or other reproductive health issues are connected to your repeated use of chemical hair relaxers, you should speak with a product liability attorney about filing a claim as soon as possible. A product liability lawyer will be able to evaluate your damages, determine what your chemical hair relaxer settlement may be worth, and advocate for maximum compensation while you focus on healing.


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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