Tattoo artists, like anyone else offering professional services to the general public, must comply with the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, legislation stating that services must be carried out with ‘reasonable care and skill’. A contract exists between the tattoo artist and the customer, and if a tattoo has been badly designed it can be the case that the contract has been breached, entitling the customer to claim compensation. Especially with larger tattoos, the cost of laser removal can be substantial, running into thousands of pounds, and a tattoo artist may be liable for this ‘consequential loss’ if it can be shown that they failed to follow the agreed artwork and botched the design to a significant extent. Compensation can therefore be claimed for the physical and emotional harm done by a poor quality tattoo, and the financial cost of putting it right.
Although tattoos have long been part of the fashion mainstream, the tattoo industry remains unregulated in the UK, meaning anyone can offer tattooing services without any qualifications or experience. A person may seek compensation if they are tattooed while in a state of intoxication, as they would not have been in a fit state to agree to the procedure. Furthermore, under the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 it is a criminal offence to tattoo a person under 18 years of age.
Customers can expect tattoos to be applied by skilled, competent artists in a hygienic environment. Where tattoos are applied by a negligent or unskilled artist, a host of medical problems can result. Poorly applied tattoos can also cause serious psychological problems and require expensive correctional or removal work.
The majority of medical problems relating to tattoos stem from unhygienic practices and equipment. The skin surrounding the tattoo may become damaged, or the tattooed area may turn septic, potentially leading to permanent scarring, as well as severe illness if the infection enters the bloodstream. A person may also suffer an allergic reaction to chemicals contained in tattoo dye. This applies to both permanent tattoo ink and to temporary henna tattoo dyes. For this reason tattooists should offer new clients a skin patch test prior to applying a tattoo.
The most serious cases involve the transmission of infectious diseases, ranging from relatively minor conditions such as herpes simplex, to more serious conditions like hepatitis B or C, tetanus, and even the HIV virus. Such diseases are often transmitted when needles are used multiple times. Compensation claims against tattoo parlours may therefore relate to a variety of medical conditions caused by a tattooist's failure to abide by health and safety laws.
Tattoo studios are legally obliged to register with their local authority and must comply with all health and safety legislation relevant to the industry. When puncture wounds become infected, skin will initially appear red or discoloured, and can then become painful, inflamed and swollen. A high temperature is another clear sign of an infection, and the skin around the tattoo may also begin to smell strange and leak pus.
To minimise the risk of infections, tattoo artists must make sure that needles are properly sterilised (ideally they should use an autoclave) and are never reused. The tattooist should wash their hands at regular intervals, wear gloves while working, and clean a client’s skin before starting. Work surfaces and the area where the customer sits should also be kept clean.
The main problem with making a claim against a tattoo artist for an infection is proving that the condition was directly caused by lack of hygiene at the tattoo studio. The latter’s insurance company are likely to claim that the infection could have resulted from the customer’s lack of care during the healing process, or that the infection developed for other reasons. Because of this, when a person has an infected tattoo and believes that poor hygiene caused it, they should complain to their local council which has the power to inspect a tattoo artist’s premises to ascertain whether acceptable hygiene standards are being maintained. If the local authority finds that a premises is unhygienic, and a doctor’s opinion attributes a person’s infected tattoo to this, then the latter will have strong grounds for making a claim.
Black henna temporary tattoos (BHTTs) are a popular temporary form of body art, particularly during the summer, although the name is misleading - the paste is not actually natural henna, but is rather mixed with paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical substance which can be extremely dangerous when applied directly to the skin in high concentrations.
A survey conducted by the British Skin Foundation in 2015 found that four out of ten dermatologists had seen patients with skin reactions to BHTTs, while a similar survey in 2018 found that 20% of children are at risk of experiencing a severe reaction to these temporary tattoos. More worrying still, three quarters of people surveyed were completely unaware that the tattoos contain PPD, as well as the fact that PPD can be dangerous when applied to the skin.
PPD is a strong and toxic chemical dye that is illegal to use on the skin in both the UK and EU (it is permitted for use in hair dyes). However, the black paste used to apply BHTTs often contains high concentrations of the chemical, which can cause chemical burns and trigger allergic reactions with unpredictable but potentially very serious health consequences.
When applied to the skin, PPD can cause a burning or stinging sensation, redness, blistering and swelling. In extreme cases it can result in permanent scarring in the shape or outline of the tattoo. A BHTT can also cause permanent sensitisation to PPD, which can mean that if, for example, a person dyes their hair in the future, they are at risk of a severe allergic reaction and potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.
Our solicitors have dealt with cases involving both chemical burns and allergic reactions caused by black henna temporary tattoos. If you or your child has been injured in this manner by a BHTT, get in touch with our firm for free legal advice and to get started making a claim.
The latest trend for fuller and more pronounced eyebrows among celebrities accounts for the growing popularity of eyebrow tattoo treatments at beauty salons. Eyebrow tattoos are effective for filling in the gaps in sparse areas of hair, making the eyebrows appear more natural looking. The process involves the use of a fine needle to inject dye and colour pigment into the surface layers of skin on the eyebrows, to a depth of around 2mm (for a permanent tattoo the depth of penetration is greater). In this way, individual eyebrow hairs are inked onto the skin.
A semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo will normally last for up to 2 years, and the procedure is generally considered to be safe, when carried out by a competent and experienced professional in hygienic surroundings. There is a serious risk of infections spreading if needles are not sterilised properly, or if they are reused on multiple clients. Although allergic reactions to colour pigment are rare, their effects can be catastrophic. There is also the chance that granulomas (hard tissue inflammations) will develop under treated areas of skin, or that abrasions to skin on the eyebrows will form raised keloid scars. Apart from such risks, human error on the part of a beauty therapist can lead to uneven results and mismatched eyebrows, amounting to partial disfigurement.
Case Study 1
Mr B visited a tattoo parlour to have the names of his three daughters tattooed across his upper back, and despite giving the tattooist the correct text, ended up with two out of three of the names misspelled in the lettering. Despite his complaints to the tattoo parlour, he was informed that the tattoo could not be corrected, and could only be covered by a much larger image that would hide the misspelled lettering, something that Mr B did not want. A month later he went to a laser clinic to ask about laser tattoo removal, but was told that he would he would require at least 10 sessions over a lengthy period of time, at a cost that was beyond what he could afford. He contacted the tattoo parlour again to request that they help to pay to have his tattoo removed, but the parlour refused, and because he felt he had run out of other options, Mr B decided to get a legal opinion on the situation.
On the advice of our solicitors, Mr B decided to proceed with a no win no fee claim against the tattoo parlour for the misspelled tattoo. Representing Mr B, we argued that the spelling was correct when Mr B showed the tattooist the text he wanted, but he was not subsequently asked to check the lettering before the tattoo was put on his skin, making the errors wholly the fault of the tattooist. Furthermore, the tattoo parlour did not ask Mr B to sign a disclaimer before the tattoo work, a form that would have meant that the parlour was not liable for any mistakes they made. The tattooist, and by extension the tattoo parlour, had breached the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, legislation requiring that them to carry out their professional services with ‘reasonable skill and care’. The tattooist owed Mr B a duty of care, and had acted negligently in failing to ink the tattoo accurately. Our client received £2,750 in compensation for the misspelled tattoo, the emotional distress he had been put through, and the cost of the laser removal treatments he required.
Case Study 2
Our client was a customer at a tattoo parlour, where the tattooist used the dye ‘black henna’ to apply her temporary tattoo containing the ingredient p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a well known allergen. No skin patch test was carried out prior to Ms R having the tattoo applied, and she was not warned that ‘black henna’ was being used instead of traditional henna (that does not contain PPD). Within an hour, Ms R was experiencing breathing difficulties and her skin was itchy, red and blistered. She was forced to seek medical attention, and was diagnosed with an allergy to PPD that had triggered an anaphylactic reaction. Ms R had been due to go on holiday a week after the procedure, a trip that was subsequently ruined due to her sunlight sensitivity resulting from the allergic reaction. She went on the make a full recovery, but having read about the widely publicised dangers of ‘black henna’ dyes online, decided to seek legal advice.
Ms R contacted our beauty treatment solicitors team, and later instructed our firm to begin a no win no fee personal injury claim against the parlour where her temporary tattoo had been applied. We then wrote to the tattoo parlour owner’s insurance company, outlining the circumstances surrounding Ms R’s allergic reaction and the severity of the symptoms she had suffered. Ms R had a sensitivity to PPD, and this had triggered an allergic reaction to the ‘black henna’, that could have been prevented had a skin patch test been carried out. ‘Black henna’ is unsuitable for applying temporary tattoos to the skin due to the potential dangers, particularly adverse reactions of the kind that Ms R had experienced. ‘Black henna’ is a dye rather than real henna that is generally safe for applying temporary tattoos. Following an admission of liability Ms R received £4,500 in compensation paid out by the tattoo parlour’s insurers.
If you have had a tattoo done and the resulting artwork differs significantly from what you requested, it can be possible to make a claim against the tattoo artist. We can also advise on claims for injuries and illnesses resulting from a bad tattoo. Contact our solicitors with expertise and experience in botched tattoo claims for free legal advice. Bartletts Solicitors have been established for 150 years, and are trusted by clients nationwide. We operate on a No Win No Fee basis.