Special Hair Relaxer Report by Attorney Jeff Keiser

JPML Agrees

We’ve been talking a lot about the hair relaxer cases lately.

Nearly 60 cases have been filed so far in various federal courts, and we’ve been predicting that this is a case almost designed for MDL treatment.

This past Monday, following oral arguments in late-January, the JPML agreed, ordering centralization for discovery purposes.

This is a good thing for settlement hopes.

Risk of Reproductive Injury

In their order, the JPML found that “Centralization will obviate the risk of duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings on pre trial issues such as what level of exposure to phthalates or other EDCs poses a risk of reproductive injury, and what obligation, if any, defendants had to disclose the presence of such chemicals in their hair relaxer products.”1

Northern District of Illinois

These cases will all be sent to U.S. District Court Judge Mary Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois.

Chicago is a great city to host these proceedings, and I know that all the big names in MDL will be happy to know they have enough 5-star hotels.

When it comes to Judge Rowland, politics may become an issue because, as a Trump nominee, she may be less favorable to plaintiffs.

But Judge Rowland received wide bipartisan support and there’s nothing indicating she will be anything but fair.

Defendants Opposed

Unsurprisingly, the defendants opposed centralization, claiming the multiplicity of products and injuries would eliminate any benefits that MDL treatment could have.

The JPML disagreed, noting that: “[T]he claims against the various defendants may turn on facts specific to the defendants and their products, and that in some instances we have been hesitant to centralize litigation against competing defendants that marketed, manufactured, and sold similar products.

In the circumstances presented here, however, we conclude that centralization will allow this litigation to be managed most efficiently and will best serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and courts.”

Just The Beginning

It will take a little time to get the MDL ball rolling.

Judge Rowland will first establish a discovery procedure and eventually, a bellwether trial schedule.

We’ll do everything possible to keep you updated with these developments as they happen.

Sometimes, MDLs get up and running in just a few weeks, but others can take months before they even start working the case.

Only time will tell as to how Judge Rowland handles these cases.

Massive Plaintiff Class

The potential plaintiff class in the hair relaxer MDL is enormous.

More than 80% of Black women in the U.S. use or used hair relaxers on a regular basis.

In essence, this means that every Black woman in the U.S. diagnosed with uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or other related conditions is a potential plaintiff.

The US National Institute of Environmental Health Safety estimated that “1.64 percent of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70, but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05 per cent.”2

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