According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland of the Northern District of Illinois denied most of the companies’ arguments to dismiss the complaint in the multidistrict litigation over the products. The litigation includes more than 8,000 lawsuits.
The judge said the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to support their allegations that the companies were negligent, designed defective products, and failed to warn customers of the risks.
Out of the 15 counts in the complaint, Rowland dismissed three entirely and a portion of a fourth, finding the plaintiffs had not adequately supported their claims of fraud.
About the Lawsuits
The products, which contain chemicals to permanently straighten textured hair, are typically marketed to women of color. The first lawsuits were filed after the October 2022 publication of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that found women who used the products multiple times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer.
After the NIH study linked hair straightening products to an increased risk of cancer earlier this year, UK feminist group Level Up coordinated an open letter in which they call on global beauty company L’Oréal to withdraw its hair straightening products.
Also, in October, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a ban on hair-straightening products that contain or emit formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
In a statement posted online after the first lawsuits were filed, L’Oreal said it is “confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”
Similarly, a Revlon representative previously told Reuters the company did not “believe the science supports a link between chemical hair straighteners or relaxers and cancer.”
Several smaller cosmetics companies are also named in the lawsuits, including some based in India.
Jennifer Hoekstra, one of the lead attorneys for the consumers, said on Monday that the ruling supports their argument that the products and the companies’ instructions for using them caused cancer.