Tattoo Parlors are a Growing Trend – Is Liability Growing too?

by Ladyblogger on October 25, 2012

Tattoo Parlors are a Growing Trend – Is Liability Growing too?

Over 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 26 and 40 have one or more tattoos. The tattoo industry is thriving, as many people express their individuality through body art. With this success comes the potential for problems. Not all tattoo artists are skilled, and removing a tattoo is difficult. When a poor tattoo artist incorrectly performs a tattoo, the tattoo artist and other parties may be liable in tort.


Negligence is the most common tort in the American legal system. For an action for negligence against a tattoo parlor or artist to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, that the defendant’s actions constituted a breach of his or her duty of care, and that that breach was the actual and proximate cause of an injury to the plaintiff. Determining whether an act constitutes a breach of the defendant’s duty is a matter for the court. In a tattoo case, a breach can arise from either a lack of skill in executing the tattoo or in failing to maintain the equipment.

A poorly skilled or inept tattoo artist may be liable for negligence if he or she fails to act reasonably. Acting reasonably requires the tattoo artist to proceed with the caution that a prudent man would have exercised under the circumstances. For example, a reasonable tattoo artist will not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and will not absentmindedly handle a customer while watching television. A reasonable tattoo artist might not take a complicated pattern if he or she is a beginner artist.

A tattoo artist may also be liable for poorly maintained equipment. Tattooing involves injecting pigments into the skin’s dermis. If the equipment is not sterile and kept away from contaminants, the customer may get an infection. Our Allentown personal injury attorney points out that politicians in Pennsylvania have recently called for licensing requirements and state regulation of tattoo parlors, citing the possibility of viral and bacterial infection. Operators who fail to sanitize equipment expose their customers to serious illnesses such as hepatitis.


Intentional torts are less common in tattoo cases, but it is possible for a tattoo artist to commit a battery. A battery occurs where the defendant acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact and a harmful or offensive contact results. With a tattoo, this can occur as a result of the tattoo artist continuing the tattoo onto another body part against the customer’s wishes or continuing to tattoo after the customer tells the artist to stop.

Reputable tattoo artists will conform to the customer’s wishes and provide a professional service. Unfortunately, some individuals get tattoos from friends or less ethical individuals. Intoxication and immaturity can combine to create a cause of action for battery. Deliberately tattooing something other than the customer’s wishes onto a customer, like an obscene gesture or body part, can constitute a battery. When getting a tattoo, always ensure that the artist is reputable and takes his or her trade seriously.

Tattoos permit individuals to express their unique personalities, interests, and histories. Unfortunately, operators can bungle the tattoo, infect the customer, or even demonstrate malice. Damage can include pain, infection, a reduction in professional standing, or even death. Victims of rogue tattoo artists should consult an attorney to discuss their options, as an attorney can explain potential causes of action and avenues of recovery.

Ann Bailey is a former journalist who’s covered both putting on and taking off of tattoos.  In Pennsylvania, where tattoo safety issues are currently in the news, the Allentown personal injury attorney offices of McMahon, McMahon and Lentz actively represent and recover damages for clients who may have suffered personal injury at the hands of a liable tattoo technician.

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