On November 15, 2022, a Motion to Transfer was submitted to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) by plaintiffs seeking to consolidate all pending hair product litigation cases filed against a number of defendants, including cosmetics giant L’Oreal, for injuries allegedly sustained by the use of Defendants’ hair care products. Plaintiffs claim that exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in the defendants’ hair relaxer products caused “disruption of the endocrine system and various types of cancer and other health problems, including, without limitation, uterine cancer, breast cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pre-term childbirth delivery”. As the Motion states, these products have been sold since the 1970s and have been specifically targeted to women of color:
Beginning in the 1970s, Defendants began designing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling hair relaxer products, primarily to African-American customers, across the United States and around the world. Hair relaxer products are classified as creams or lotions and are specifically marketed to women of color to straighten their hair, which in its natural state is typically characterized by dense curls that “naturally grows up and out.”
To date, nine hair product litigation cases have been filed by thirteen plaintiffs in the Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of California, Southern District of New York, and Southern District of Georgia. An article published on October 17, 2022 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute cites a National Institutes of Health study that examined associations between frequent hair product use (four or more times a year) and the incidence of uterine cancer, and discovered the “first epidemiologic evidence of association between use of straightening products and uterine cancer.”
Plaintiffs note that Black and Brown women are more likely to use hair straightening products, noting product use often starts in adolescence; they cite pressure created by prevalent societal norms and highlight the tactics used by the defendants to market primarily to women of color. In a recent press release, plaintiffs’ attorneys Ben Crump and Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann of DiCello Levitt, point out “Black women have long been the victims of dangerous products specifically marketed to them……Black hair has been and always will be beautiful, but Black women have been told they have to use these products to meet society’s standards. We will likely discover that (plaintiff) Ms. Mitchell’s tragic case is one of countless cases in which companies aggressively misled black women to increase their profits.”
Plaintiffs’ Motion has requested that the lawsuits be transferred and consolidated in Chicago, in the Northern District of Illinois, citing a “strong factual connection to the litigation” given the large minority population and the fact that one of the defendants, Namaste, has its principal place of business in Chicago. It is suspected that the JPML will hear the Motion on January 26 in Miami, FL.