Request Legal Help Now - Free


Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Update

. By

At least 8,334 hair relaxer lawsuits against cosmetic companies are pending in a federal MDL

Santa Clara, CA  As of early March, at least 8,334 hair relaxer lawsuits are pending in a federal MDL (multidistrict litigation). Following a study that linked cancer to hair straightener products in late 2022, African American women have filed product liability lawsuits claiming certain cosmetic companies caused their uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and other serious injuries.

In January 2023, under U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland, the U.S. Judicial Panel on MDL established coordinated pretrial proceedings in in the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Rowland, who has been presiding over coordinated discovery into common issues that impact all claims, said that a “bellwether” program will be established: it will ready a small group of representative cases for early trial dates. 

On March 1, a joint status report updated the Court on the status of the litigation in advance of the status conference scheduled for March 7, 2024. It includes several disputes that arose regarding the timing and process for selecting bellwether claims. It also includes the manufacturers requesting delays and changes to the bellwether selection process, by arguing that plaintiffs have been slow to sufficiently complete Plaintiff Fact Sheets (PFS), which are written statements intended to provide certain information about each claim, according to Reuters. The defendants claim that incomplete PFS in a number of recently filed claims will impact their ability to determine the most appropriate bellwether selections.

Delay Tactic

Plaintiffs, however, argue that with thousands of claims filed, the manufacturers are overstating the impact of the problem and have unreasonable expectations. They pointed out that the court-established deadline for most of the claimants to complete the PFS recently passed and because thousands of fact sheets have already been completed, there are enough claims for the parties to make representative selections for the early trial dates. Plaintiffs believe that this defendants’ tactic is an attempt to “delay-delay-delay” because their own discovery obligations have been “atrocious” and “This is nothing more than a manufactured argument that is not ripe yet but was clearly crafted in the days before the JSR (joint status report) was due in an effort to suggest to the Court that the bellwether process should be further delayed.”

By delaying—asking the court to further extend the litigation -- the manufacturers are attempting to seize on a tiny fraction of cases where the fact sheets were not served by the deadlines. But defendants also say this request will have no impact on the selection of representative cases for bellwether work-up and ultimate trial dates in the MDL.

MDL Dispute

A dispute in MDL-3060 regarding the procedure for dismissing cases indicates that plaintiffs, in advocating for the right to voluntarily dismiss their complaints without prejudice or to amend them before defendants file an answer, argue that defendants’ wholesale refusal to consent to such dismissals obstructs standard MDL practice and unnecessarily burdens the court with motions. The defendants, however, argue that plaintiffs must obtain consent from all answering defendants for dismissals without prejudice after answers are filed. They state that if dismissals without prejudice are allowed, the plaintiffs would undermine MDL procedures, potentially leading to forum shopping and increased costs for defendants.

One plaintiff attorney points out that it is ridiculous to argue that plaintiffs cannot voluntarily dismiss their case at this stage of the litigation. After all, some plaintiffs may not be able to participate in discovery because they have cancer and are too sick to participate.

AboutLawsuits reported that Judge Rowland is expected to issue a case management order establishing how the litigation will move forward following the March 2024 hair relaxer lawsuit status conference. Plaintiffs’ attorneys expect that the number of cases is expected to continue increasing over the next few years, and it is widely expected that tens of thousands of women may eventually bring claims seeking financial compensation.


Legal Help

If you or a loved one have suffered losses in a similar case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a defective products lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.


Please read our comment guidelines before posting.

Note: Your name will be published with your comment.

Your email will only be used if a response is needed.

Are you the defendant or a subject matter expert on this topic with an opposing viewpoint? We'd love to hear your comments here as well, or if you'd like to contact us for an interview please submit your details here.

Click to learn more about

Request Legal Help Now! - Free