The New Year has begun and as the haze of Sunday mornings hangover begins to fade perhaps you are combing through your memory and realizing some of your choices New Years Eve were….shall we say…less than stellar. There was that fourth round of flaming shots to consider, and did you really make out with that stranger in the elevator? Plus you may or may not have thrown up in your; purse, car, friends house, or driveway. Maybe not your proudest moments – sure, but still all survivable. But wait, hang on – did you actually get a tattoo as well?
One of the cardinal sins of tattoos is never to get one while you are wasted and your common sense is on holiday. Thankfully many artists won’t even touch you if you are drunk, but that doesn’t cover the scratchers and the opportunists. So did you? Did you get wasted and get a tattoo you regret? Are you really that guy from The Hangover 2? Or maybe you weren’t even wasted – just swept up in the moment and the siren song of the tattoo machine called to you and now you are this guy-
Fun Fact- this is on a guys backside – he told his friend to tattoo “whatever you want”
What can you do if you got a tattoo you deeply regret? Well of course there are the traditional choices like laser removal or cover ups. Then there is always the “bad tattoo with the hilarious back story” option but you have to really sell it and you are still stuck with a bad tattoo.
What if you feel the tattoo artist was somehow to blame? The title of this post is no accident. By searching on google for returns with “tattoo lawsuit” etc. the phrase ” can you sue a tattoo artist for a bad tattoo ” returned over 11,000,000 results. Eleven million. Let that sink in for a bit. And of course the question is, can you? Can you sue a tattoo artist for a bad tattoo? Tattoo laws differ from state to state and there is surprisingly little governance over shop conditions and artist qualifications in many states. This puts the responsibility on you – the client – to do your homework and not just saunter into any random shop and assume they are professionals. In many places throughout the country the ONLY qualification required to operate a tattoo shop is a $25 business license issued by the city the shop is located in. Dog groomers have more oversight and accountability.
But you are reading this article because maybe you have Welcome Aboard tattooed on your ass or something similiar and you need to know if you can sue a tattoo artist for a bad tattoo. The answer, yes – sometimes. You may have to prove the artist was negligent, misrepresented themselves (showing portfolio work that was not their own etc.) or that their technique was dramatically flawed. Most of these suits will come down to the opinion of the judge because these types of suits will mainly be in small claims court. But before you race off to find a lawyer to help you seek righteousness for your ill-conceived tattoo remember that you, as the consumer, also bear some responsibility. You always get what you pay for and if you got tattooed by a hack for a super cheap price then you can’t be too surprised when your results are kind of…
Sadly, sometimes good artists are the victims of frivolous lawsuits brought by clients that got exactly what they wanted and then regretted it later. Here is a true story from PPIB regarding one of their insured tattoo artists;
Tattooers and Small Claims Court – Life is not always fair!
Our insured completed a decorative tattoo on a client’s forearm with a design provided by the client. The client was very satisfied with the outcome. A couple of days later, the client’s father came to the insured’s shop with his wife. They inquired as to whether the insured had completed the client’s tattoo. The insured admitted he had. The parents then became irate because they disliked the tattoo and stated it was against their religion. The insured provided the client’s father with a copy of the consent form and the ID provided by the client, showing that the client was old enough to consent. The father acknowledged the consent agreement and left.
Within a week, the insured received a small claims’ court (SCC) lawsuit alleging $7,500 damages as a result of the tattoo that the client and his father claimed was negligently performed. The insured, knowing he could not be represented by an attorney in SCC assumed there was nothing his insurance company could or would do for him. He and his wife prepared a very good a defense for the SCC trial but despite the fact the client’s father lacked any standing to assert a claim on behalf of his adult son (who did not attend the trial), the tattooer lost.
The SCC awarded the plaintiffs $7,5000 in damages. The insured reported the matter to his insurance company for assistance. The adjuster contacted the client’s father to discuss a compromise, but he refused. The carrier then engaged a defense attorney and finally the plaintiff agreed to accept $6,000 as full and final settlement.
A tattooer can do everything right and still be a victim of circumstances. In this case, the insurance company was able to intervene on the tattooer’s behalf even if the small claims court didn’t allow direct representation.
So what is the moral of this particular story? I spot several.
- Don’t be a total D-Bag. (If you don’t know what a D- Bag is I will give you a hint – it rhymes with Smoosh-Bag) If you get a tattoo and you love it and it is all good don’t then come back at the artist with trumped-up legal claims because you changed your mind or your family or significant other is unhappy with your tattoo. Own your ink. It’s your skin and your life – you made an informed decision now live with it.
- Think Before You Ink – This is always true and never more so then when you are going directly against your parents or others in your life who have direct influence over you. My mother hates my tattoos but she is not going to go and try to sue the artists who have tattooed me. Why? Because I am a f-ng grown up and she understands I make my own choices. If your family is insanely anti-tattoo (or your job or religious group) then don’t put some hapless tattoo artist in the middle of a power struggle. Either get it sorted BEFORE your tattoo or just don’t get one.
- If You are a Tattoo Artist you NEED insurance!! Why? See #1.
Being a tattoo artist is hard work and the potential for problems and drama can run high – here is another gem from PPIB for your consideration;
Dog Bites – and S0 Does Reality
Claims can arise if there is a dog in the shop. In one case the dog bit the girlfriend of the shop owner. Due to the potential liability from the bite, he was prepared to keep her around as his girlfriend although he was somewhat over the relationship. When the claims department advised him the statute of limitations is 2 years, he decided he couldn’t stay with her for 2 more years. Once he broke off the relationship, the woman submitted a lawsuit for the dog bite. That didn’t end well. Dog bites are considered to be absolute liability to the dog owner – there is no defense.
Another time when a dog bit the tattoo shop’s client, it ended well because the client was on the run from the local authorities, so he did not stick around long enough to file a claim.
OK let’s break this down with some critical life lessons;
- Don’t bring your dog to the shop. I know that seems like a cheap shot but it had to be said.
- Don’t bring your girlfriend to the shop if she is; a) not really your girlfriend anymore b) litigious c) not a huge dog fan OR d) Loves dogs, wants to be with you forever, but unfortunately smells like meat snacks.
- Don’t bring your felon- on- the- run friend to the shop because – well just because. But hey – freebie on that dog bite incident!
Remember – you don’t want pending lawsuits to choose your romantic partners for you and you DEFINITELY want tattoo insurance if you are planning on doing any of the above.
So if you are still sitting in front of your computer with your misspelled tattoo on your skin and still wondering if you can sue a tattoo artist for a bad tattoo just know the answer is yes – sort of – but you should remember to not be a D-Bag about it and for goodness sake – please leave your dog at home.
Make good tattoo choices in 2017 and always carry insurance!