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The Seventh Circuit affirmed a $10.25 million settlement lawsuit against Unilever for injuries associated with women using the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit. Although this sounds like a win for plaintiffs, it's actually Unilever who is celebrating the judge's decision.
This marks the end of the "melting hair" lawsuit. If you still have this product around, we suggest you dispose of it as hazardous waste.
The lawsuit first began when hundreds of women from multiple class actions sued Unilever under multiple product liability theories, most notable a failure to warn. It was alleged that Unilever knew but failed to adequately warn potential users that the product could cause hair loss and scalp burns even when the product was used as directed. Apparently, the 30-day smoothing kit contains a chemical cocktail that is particularly pernicious. Catherine Reny, one of the lead plaintiffs, claimed that as soon as she started using the product, her hair started "melting."
Suave Keratin Infusion Kit Destroyed My Hair!
She wasn't the only one. Soon, hundreds of women started reported similar ill effects and documented their injuries on the "Suave Keratin Infusion Kit Destroyed My Hair" Facebook page. That's some unfortunate marketing press right there.
Further, the packaging was also technically correct in claiming that the product "contain[ed] no formaldehyde," but left out the fact that it contained DMDM hydantoin, a "formaldehyde releaser."
Unilever had apparently been aware of the dangers of the product much earlier on, but had decided to sweep the problem under the rug by "discontinuing" the product in 2012. A good number of the consumers suffered permanent injury. Each plaintiff will be reimbursed the cost of purchasing the product, but plaintiffs that sought higher damages were required to produce documentation that supported their claims.
It's a win for Unilever because it is estimated that 40 percent of the fund will revert back to the company. It is unlikely that consumers with new demands will show up now, years after the product has been off the market.