Leg Waxing Maiming Brings Beautician Malpractice Suit
The beauty salon and spa experience is ideally all about pampering and relaxation. Most of the time, everything goes off without a hitch. But when things go wrong, as they did for Samantha Lawrence during a trip to Judy Miracle Nail in New York City, a little me-time can quickly turn into a little ER-time.
According to court documents, Lawrence “had an immediate reaction” to the application of hot wax to her thigh, resulting in hospital care and “permanent scarring to her leg.”
As Lawrence began her physical recovery, she also began a legal process that would span nearly five years.
Lawrence hired an attorney to handle her claim with the nail salon’s insurance carrier, Continental Casualty Company, Inc. After she filed her bodily injury claim, Continental hired an investigator to look into the incident. The investigation revealed that the employee who performed the waxing lacked the state-mandated license to do so — and had been “performing unauthorized and illegal waxings for approximately one year.”
A few months later, Continental denied Lawrence’s claim, citing fine print in Judy Miracle Nail’s liability policy that excluded injuries that resulted from illegally provided services. Lawrence would later sue the nail salon in the state’s highest court and win a judgment of more than $132,000, which would go unpaid for nearly three years.
But this year, Lawrence caught a lucky break. She sued Continental in January, and in August the court found that the company failed to fulfill its duty to provide a legal defense for Judy Miracle Nail during Lawrence’s suit. As a result, it was prohibited from using the policy exclusion for illegal services in its defense, and was ordered to foot the bill for the judgment owed to Lawrence — plus interest.
While accidents can happen at any salon or spa, Lawrence’s ordeal might have been avoidable had she known the employee lacked the proper license. Her permanent scar and years-long legal battle are reminders that those licenses are required for a reason, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted that a salon or employee has earned them.
“A consumer can always visit a state’s website to determine what license is required for which service,” said Florida personal injury attorney Hernando V. Pineres. “Having a state license is one step in ensuring that a provider has the knowledge and training necessary to safely sell a particular product or service.”
Depending on the state, the licenses may be issued by the state health department, commercial licensing department or another regulatory agency. It’s common for states to require salons and spas to post their licenses conspicuously, usually near the entrance. If you’ve done your homework and know what licenses the salons in your state are required to maintain, be sure to verify that the posted licenses are up to date.
Beautify at Your Own Risk
Once you’re confident that your salon is on the up-and-up, feel free to get your primp on, but don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sign consent forms for certain services. New York personal injury attorney Jason B. Kessler says it’s common for businesses to require an agreement to assume risks associated with services like tanning.
“If you go to a tanning salon and get skin cancer, that’s kind of like going skiing and breaking your leg,” Kessler said.
And while most states require beauty salons to carry a certain level of liability insurance, Kessler said that’s something else a careful consumer might want to confirm before undergoing treatments that carry a risk of bodily harm.
“You’d be surprised at how many people don’t get [insurance],” Kessler said. “It’s not a very closely regulated industry.”
Have you ever been injured at a beauty salon or spa? Did liability insurance cover your expenses, or did you end up taking them to court? Share your story in the comments section below.