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Lawyers to Meet with Hair Relaxer MDL Judge During Initial Status Conference March 2nd
The U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal hair relaxer lawsuits will meet with lawyers involved in the litigation on Thursday, to hold an initial status conference and discuss the organizational structure for pretrial proceedings in a growing number of claims brought by women nationwide.
L’Oreal and other hair relaxer manufacturers face dozens of Dark & Lovely lawsuits, Just for Me lawsuits and other claims alleging exposure to toxic chemicals contained in the hair straighteners and home perms caused uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and other injuries. However, as hair relaxer lawyers continue to investigate and review claims in the coming months, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to rapidly increase.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to consolidate and centralize all hair relaxer lawsuits as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, since each of the claims involve similar questions of fact or law.
Over the next few years, complaints brought throughout the federal court system will all be transferred to U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois, to coordinate discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different Courts and serve the convenience of common witnesses and parties involved in the cases.
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Regular exposure to chemicals in hair relaxer may cause uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and other injuries. Women diagnosed with cancer may be eligible for settlement benefits.Learn More About this Lawsuit See if you Qualify for a Settlement
Judge Rowland issued the first case management order (PDF) on February 16, scheduling an initial status hearing and scheduling conference for Thursday, March 2.
At that time, the hair relaxer MDL judge will meet with all lawyers involved in the litigation, and discuss the scope of which cases should be included in the MDL, deadlines for responses to existing complaints, evidence preservation orders and potential deadlines that will apply to the cases.
The Court is also expected to appoint a group of hair relaxer lawyers to serve in various leadership roles during the MDL proceedings, taking certain actions that will benefit all women who have filed a lawsuit.
“One of the topics the Court intends to discuss at the March 2 hearing is a process for appointment of, to the extent appropriate, lead counsel and/or a steering committee for plaintiffs, as well as liaison counsel for plaintiffs and defendants,” Judge Rowland wrote. “The main criteria for such appointments will be: (a) willingness and availability to commit to a time-consuming project; (b) ability to work cooperatively with others; (c) professional experience in this type of litigation; (d) access to sufficient resources to advance the litigation in a timely manner; and (e) diversity. The Court will consider only attorneys who have filed an action that is part of this case.”
Judge Rowland asked counsel to be prepared to discuss the appropriate structure for plaintiffs’ leadership, which should factor in that there are both individual hair relaxer lawsuits filed as well as class action lawsuits.
Hair Relaxer Health Concerns
The hair relaxer MDL was established after a study was published the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in October 2022, which found that regular users of chemical straighteners face an increased risk of uterine cancer from hair perms.
According to the findings, 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 hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuit, ovarian cancer lawsuit or claims alleging they developed uterine fibroids following the use of popular perm products like Dark & Lovely, Optimum, Just for Me, ORS Olive Oil, Motions and others.
Hair Relaxer Litigation Expected to Grow
The JPML noted in its decision that the litigation has already grown to 53 claims filed in 19 different federal court districts nationwide, with L’Oreal the most commonly named defendant. However, as more women learn about the link between their hair relaxer perms and cancer, it is ultimately expected that several thousand cases will be included in the MDL..
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.
Do You Qualify For a Hair Relaxer Settlement?
Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations to help women determine if they may be entitled to a hair relaxer settlement for uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer or another injury that may have been caused by chemical straighteners.
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