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Hair Relaxer Injury Lawyers Appointed To Leadership Positions in Federal MDL
- Women nationwide are pursuing hair relaxer lawsuits over uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and other injuries caused by straightening chemicals
- Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, all lawsuits have been centralized as part of a federal MDL or multi-district litigation
- Leadership lawyers will take certain actions during the pretrial proceedings that benefit all women pursuing an injury claim
- LEARN MORE ABOUT HAIR RELAXER INJURY LAWSUITS
The U.S District Judge presiding over all federal hair relaxer injury lawsuits has appointed a group of 35 lawyers to serve in various leadership positions during the consolidated pretrial proceedings, taking certain actions that will benefit all women pursuing claims over the development of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and other injuries caused by perm chemicals.
Over the past few months, a steadily growing number of Dark & Lovely lawsuits, Just for Me lawsuits and other claims have been brought against the makers of popular hair straighteners commonly used by Black women, alleging that inadequate warnings were provided about the toxic side effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the products.
As hair relaxer lawyers continue to investigate and review claims, it is expected that the size and scope of the litigation will increase rapidly throughout 2023, and it is ultimately expected that thousands of women will file a lawsuit.
MDL Proceedings Established For Hair Relaxer Injury Claims
Given common questions of fact and law involved in each of the claims, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided last month to consolidate and centralize all hair relaxer lawsuits as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, and appointed U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland to preside over all discovery and pretrial proceedings out of the Northern District of Illinois.
On March 2, Judge Rowland issued an order (PDF) appointing a group of 35 hair relaxer injury lawyers to plaintiffs’ leadership positions. Four of the attorneys have been assigned to serve as co-lead counsel; one as plaintiffs’ liaison counsel; nine will serve on the Plaintiffs Executive Committee; and 21 additional attorneys will sit on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.
One of the lawyers assigned to the serve as co-lead counsel is Ben Crump, a well-known civil rights attorney who has represented African American plaintiffs nationwide, often in police brutality lawsuits. Many of the injury claims involve allegations that hair relaxer manufacturers specifically marketed their products to Black women, often starting at a young age, despite knowing their products likely carried increased health risks.
These MDL leadership lawyers will take certain actions during the coordinated pretrial proceedings that benefit all women pursuing a hair relaxer injury claim, including conducting discovery and depositions into common issues that impact all claims, arguing motions before the court and potentially negotiating hair relaxer injury settlements that establish a framework to resolve the litigation. However, each individual plaintiff will still maintain their own lawyer to meet various deadlines and establish a link between their specific injury and hair relaxer chemicals in the products they used, as well as negotiate any potential individual hair relaxer lawsuit payout.
Hair Relaxer Health Concerns
The hair relaxer litigation emerged late last year, after a study was published the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that regular users of chemical straighteners face an increased risk of uterine cancer from hair relaxers.
According to findings published in October 2022, the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times higher for women who used perm products than among those who did not use the relaxers.
Over the months after publication of the study, at least 40 women filed a uterine cancer lawsuit, ovarian cancer lawsuit or uterine fibroid lawsuit, alleging that their injuries were caused by chemicals in a variety of popular perm products, such as Dark & Lovely, Optimum, Just for Me, ORS Olive Oil, Motions and others.
In complex product liability cases, where a large number of claims are filed throughout the federal court system by individuals who suffered similar injuries as a result of the same or similar products, it is common for the federal court system to centralize the litigation for pretrial proceedings.
As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, it is expected that Judge Rowland will establish a bellwether process, where small groups of representative injury claims will go through case-specific discovery and be prepared for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if hair relaxer and perm cancer settlements are not reached during the MDL proceedings, each case may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for separate trials.
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