In a historic move, court appoints the most diverse plaintiffs’ team ever to lead a multidistrict litigation
CHICAGO, March 2, 2023 –– DiCello Levitt partner Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann today was appointed Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel in a multidistrict litigation against L’Oréal and other makers of hair relaxer products marketed primarily to Black and Latin women, alleging that such products are directly linked to uterine and ovarian cancer. The appointments, made by Judge Mary M. Rowland of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, are historic, representing the most diverse plaintiffs’ team ever to lead an MDL.
Zimmermann is joined as Co-Lead Counsel by Ben Crump of the Ben Crump Law Firm, Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice LLC, and Michael A. London of Douglas & London PC. Zimmermann and Crump were the first lawyers to file a mass tort lawsuit last October on behalf of women – many of whom are Black – who have contracted or are at greater risk of contracting uterine cancer and other significant health conditions from their use of chemical hair straightening products. Similar lawsuits followed before their transfer and centralization into the MDL, In Re: Hair Relaxer Marketing Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation.
“First and foremost, today represents an important milestone in our commitment to achieve justice for all women who were assured that these products were safe, and particularly Black women who were primarily targeted as customers,” Zimmermann said. “It is gratifying that Judge Rowland recognizes the critical importance of appointing a diverse group of lawyers to represent a similarly diverse group of plaintiffs in this matter.”
During today’s court hearing, Judge Rowland made the unusual decision to appoint the plaintiffs’ leadership team directly from the bench, noting the high quality and deep well of experience demonstrated by the leadership applicants—all of which was demonstrated in the leadership team’s application, which emphasized their diversity, similar professional experience, willingness and resources to commit to a time-consuming project, and the ability to work cooperatively with others.
Zimmermann and Crump filed the original complaint in October 2022, around the same time that the National Cancer Institute published a study conducted by the National Institute of Health that found that frequent users of chemical hair straightening products were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as those who didn’t use those products. That finding was particularly alarming for Black women, who report using hair straightening products more than other populations. Chemical hair straighteners typically contain products associated with higher cancer risk, including formaldehyde, metals, phthalates, and parabens, which may be more easily absorbed by the body through scalp burns and abrasions often caused by chemical straighteners.
Zimmermann and Crump founded the organization, Shades of Mass, in 2022 to combat the lack of diverse attorney leadership in MDLs. Co-Chair of DiCello Levitt’s Mass Tort practice group, Zimmermann is widely recognized for her relentless client advocacy, representing individuals and public entities injured by wrongful conduct, whether from defective medical devices or drugs, environmental contamination, corporate misconduct, and civil rights abuses.
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