Raise your hand if you love a gorgeous manicure once in a while.
Yes, that hand is raised to show off your beautiful nails!
Unfortunately, sometimes the price of a manicure is more than its cost (plus tip). Sometimes, this pampering service can lead to an unpleasant infection or injury.
A couple of recent lawsuits—one against a nail salon in Los Angeles and another settlement against a nail salon in Tampa, Florida—highlights why it’s important to be sure that your salon is following safety procedures... and what you can do if it isn’t.
Sonia Algara v. Dynasty Nails
Sonia Algara visited Dynasty Nails in Santa Clarita, California, hoping for a few hours of pampering and to leave the salon with beautiful flip-flopped toes following her pedicure.
But tragically, that’s not what happened.
Within a week after her pedicure, doctors had to amputate her baby toe because of a severe infection.
Algara said she informed the technician that she is diabetic, which means she carries a higher risk for infection. However, the salon employee used a pair of scissors to cut in between the fourth and fifth toes on her left foot. The infection became so severe that her doctor had to amputate her toe.
She still experiences pain from the procedure, and the disfigurement leaves her with emotional and physical scars. She has difficulty walking up stairs and balancing, and she is no longer able to wear certain types of shoes.
Algara sued the salon for her personal injury damages that included the cost of medical expenses, mental anguish and emotional distress.
Algara’s case is still in litigation.
Clara Shellman v. Tammy’s Nails 2
In December 2021, Clara Shellman was awarded a $1.75 million settlement from Tammy’s Nails 2 in Tampa, Florida.
Shellman was getting a pedicure in 2018 when the technician cut Shellman’s foot. The tools and equipment used on Shellman were dirty and the salon was found not to be following its own policies at the time. Workers were not trained properly and equipment was not maintained and sanitized.
The cut became infected and spread quickly because Shellman had a circulatory condition that causes reduced blood flow to her limbs. As a result, Shellman’s leg had to be amputated.
Shellman incurred so many medical expenses from the amputation that she lost her home and she could no longer care for herself, forcing her to move in with relatives.
Types of injuries from salon services
Most salons offer a varied menu of services that include manicures, pedicures, artificial nail application and removal, hair removal using wax, hair styling and hair coloring.
Because of the nature of salon treatments, there are 3 primary ways that people suffer injuries or illness after a salon visit:
- Chemical exposure. Chemicals are handled every day in salons — everything from the polish itself to the glue used for artificial nails, the substances in gel or dip nail powders, to harsh removers, waxes, and hair color could be harmful to either the technician or stylist or to the client. Any product could cause a person to have an allergic reaction or skin irritation.
- Infection. Infection is primarily caused by tools that are used on multiple clients. Although salons have strict regulations for disinfecting and sanitizing tools, they don’t always follow them correctly. A tool can pass a bacterial or fungal infection from one person to the next if not cleaned properly in between each use.
- Respiratory symptoms. This includes runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, trouble breathing, or headaches that could be caused by breathing in fumes from the chemicals used in salons.
Injuries to salon workers
Often, you’ll see nail technicians wearing N95 masks (even before the pandemic) in order to protect them from breathing in hazardous particulate matter from acrylic nails. If you’ve had a manicure, you might have noticed the dust that flies around when the technician smooths your nails using a dremel, or even a manual file.
Most nail salon clients don’t wear a mask for this purpose, likely because they believe that the small amount of exposure to these chemicals from a single manicure would not affect you — but nail technicians who give manicures all day long need to be protected from breathing dangerous dust and fumes from nail services.
There are also other types of injuries that can happen to salon technicians, from accidental cuts from equipment, to slip-and-fall accidents, burns, and other accidents.
If you’re a salon worker who was injured, you should be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation benefits should cover any injury that happens while you’re at work. Although rules vary by state, nearly every employer must provide this insurance to employees.
When is the salon liable for an injury?
In order to make a claim for a personal injury of any kind, you need to prove that the defendant was negligent. In other words:
Did the defendant (the manicurist, nail technician or nail salon) act in a way that showed unreasonable and negligent care in preventing harm to the injured person?
In a salon environment, this could mean failing to properly sterilize equipment or follow the industry standards for safe nail and skin treatment.
For a successful personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff (the injured person) must prove the following:
- The salon had a duty to the plaintiff. Any business that serves customers has a duty to avoid harm to any customer or visitor.
- The salon breached its duty of care to the customer. If the salon failed to follow industry standards and state or county health department regulations, or if salon employees were otherwise careless, then it was not upholding its duty to the customer.
- The breach caused the person’s injury. The plaintiff needs to demonstrate that their injury was a direct result of the breach. In other words, if the plaintiff contracted an infection but had an open sore that was exposed prior to the salon treatment, then it would be difficult to prove that the infection was caused by the salon’s use of instruments or equipment that might have been unsanitary.
- The injury cost the plaintiff money. If you suffered a minor infection that you treated yourself with something like an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, and it healed quickly, then you might be frustrated by the situation but you probably wouldn’t have a basis for a lawsuit because the injury didn’t cost significant money. However, if the injury was severe and resulted in medical treatment, a hospital stay, surgery, or more extensive costs (such as those in the cases mentioned above), then you could sue the salon for those expenses.
How to prevent salon injuries
When you visit a salon, there are things you can look for as a consumer in order to reduce your risk of injury or infection. We suggest taking the following steps:
- Make sure the salon is clean and licensed by the state cosmetology board.
- Inquire about the salon’s practices for sanitizing hair or nail tools that are used for multiple clients.
- Check to see if instruments are sterilized in an autoclave, which is a small device that looks like an oven. It heats the equipment to a temperature that kills bacteria and is more effective than soaking them in chemicals.
- It’s safer to have your cuticles pushed back than cut, unless you’re certain that the equipment has been sterilized.
- If you are injured during cuticle cutting, clean the wound thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment. If the area becomes red or swollen, you should go to a doctor because it might require an oral antibiotic.