DALLAS — As the number of lawsuits targeting companies that manufacture and market chemical hair straighteners continues to grow, a new major beauty brand is being pulled into the mix: Revlon.
The company filed for bankruptcy last June, citing supply chain issues, and consumers were given a deadline of Oct. 24, 2022, to file any claims against the beauty brand.
On Oct. 17, a week before that deadline, the National Cancer Institute released a study that showed a potential link between the frequent use of chemical hair straighteners and uterine cancer cases.
The NCI found that women who used the products more than four times per year potentially had more than double the risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those who never used them.
Following the study, dozens of lawsuits were filed throughout the country against companies that market and manufacture hair relaxers.
Because of Revlon’s bankruptcy court deadline, any claims filed specifically against the company that weren't submitted during that one-week window - by the Oct. 24 deadline - were barred.
This week, the bankruptcy judge in the case lifted the bar, allowing for a new deadline of April 11 at 5 p.m. Eastern for consumers with hair relaxers claims against Revlon.
After the April deadline, all claims on this matter against Revlon will be barred, according to the judge's order.
The judge also has granted a March 23, deadline for people to file their claims and receive the power to vote on whatever bankruptcy plan is handed down to Revlon from the court.
Larry Taylor Jr., a Dallas attorney and managing partner with The Cochran Firm, said he was among the attorneys who filed initial claims against Revlon prior to the initial Oct. 24 deadline last year.
Taylor said the judge's decision to lift the bar and allow extra time for claims against Revlon to be filed is helpful, but he worries the less than one-month period is not enough time.
“We’re talking about less than 30 days to file a claim or forever be barred from bringing a claim," Taylor said. “That is a serious concern. You know, the digital divide is a real thing.”
He said that people who may want to file claims don't have the resources and technology to do so.
“We have several clients that don’t have the internet," Taylor said. "So, they saw our commercial and called us, and we had to mail them contracts, and they mailed it back. These, sometimes, are little old grandmas. It took them time to get that back to us."
Aigner Kolom, a principal with the Beasley Allen Law Firm, said her firm has many clients who used Revlon hair relaxers. She said her team is rushing to make sure they have all of the information they need, including the proof of claim form required to be submitted to the bankruptcy court.
"We're just going to try as fast, and as best as we can, to get these claims in as soon as possible," Kolom said.
She said their goal is to get as many clients in for the earlier deadline as possible, so clients will have the voting power in the bankruptcy plan.
However, Kolom and Taylor both said the process of investigating each client's claim takes time.
"The time is extensive," Kolom said. "We've got multiple staff members and attorneys who are working on these cases in our offices every day, and they spend the build of their day on these cases."
With new deadlines looming, Taylor said he has mixed feelings.
“I’m concerned," Taylor said. "I’m concerned about the process as it’s been laid out right now. I’m always hopeful that we can get the job done, but this particular order…the strict time constraints and the short period of time gives me angst.”
Kolom said there is the possibility that the deadline could be extended, but until they hear that from a judge, the rush to get the claims in is underway.
Meanwhile, Revlon, like other beauty brands targeted by these lawsuits, has maintained that the allegations about its products are meritless.
In a statement provided to WFAA, the company said:
“Revlon is committed to the safety of all its products, which undergo extensive testing before going to market. While we do not believe the science supports a link between chemical hair straighteners or relaxers to uterine cancer, we remain open to evaluating further studies and always adhere to all regulations in every market we do business.”