Bioderm Skin Care, LLC v. Sok – Beauty Industry Negligence

Taking care of one’s appearance is important, and patrons of beauty salons have every right to expect that licensed businesses and employees will be professional and competent.
When they’re not, hopefully the worst that happens is you suffer a bad hair cut for a few weeks and find yourself another stylist. Unfortunately, our beauty salon injury lawyers know that sometimes, patrons can be seriously hurt. It’s easy to overlook the fact that these workers are handling potentially dangerous chemicals, sharp objects and heat. Severe burns, lacerations and other injuries have been reported in some cases where workers were careless or not properly trained.

Further complicating these cases is that a growing number of “salons” are either headed or overseen by doctors (or should be). Examples would obviously include any procedure that involves cosmetic surgery, but it could also encompass “medi-spa” offerings such as laser hair removal, Botox procedures, tattoo removal, skin resurfacing and certain weight loss programs. This raises legitimate questions about whether these matters of personal injury or medical malpractice. The answer is important in terms of statutory time limitations, as well as the requirements necessary to file the case.

In the recent Texas Supreme Court case of Bioderm Skin Care, LLC v. Sok, the failure of plaintiffs to correctly make this distinction resulted in the court dismissing the claim. It might potentially be refiled, but only if the statute of limitations has not yet expired.

According to the claim, the plaintiff purchased seven sessions at a laser hair removal treatment center. At the beginning of her fifth session, she reportedly told a staffer at the center that she was unhappy with the progress she had made so far in her treatments. The staffer reported those concerns to the on-staff doctor, who reviewed her file and then instructed the operator to up the intensity setting by one, from level 5 to level 6, for her fifth and subsequent treatments.

However, shortly after the fifth treatment, the plaintiff complained that her legs had began to burn. The extent of the burning/scarring is disputed by both parties, but the doctor did apply some topical cream to treat the area. He told her to come back to be reevaluated in a week. However, she did not come back, asserting that she had suffered serious complications as a result of that last treatment.

She later filed a lawsuit against the treatment center, alleging vicarious liability for the allegedly negligent actions of the doctor, whom she also sued. The defense countered that the claim was technically a health care liability claim under the state’s medical liability act, and that she did not meet the necessary criteria (including an expert opinion report) in order for the claim to continue.

The plaintiff never directly disputed this fact, but the district court declined to grant a summary judgment in favor of the defense on these grounds. An appellate court affirmed that decision, and the matter was then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Justices there reversed and remanded the case for dismissal. The plaintiff had failed to rebut the presumption that this was a health care liability case and had not provided the appropriate health care expert testimony.

Laser hair removal facilities in particular have gained a reputation for being potentially dangerous. Here in North Carolina, a 22-year-old North Carolina State University student died in 2005 after applying a topical, prescription-strength anesthetic gel to her legs. After applying the cream, she got in her car to travel to her appointment and on the way, suffered a series of seizures. She died nine days later.

It was later learned that the doctor had arranged to distribute the drug directly from his office without written prescriptions. No physicians were performing a medical evaluation or medical history on any patient who was receiving the drug.

The doctor was later reprimanded by the North Carolina Medical Board, and barred from practicing in North Carolina.

Contact the Asheville injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Bioderm Skin Care, LLC v. Sok, March 28, 2014, Texas Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction LLC – Keeping Personal Injury Complaints Off Facebook, March 1, 2014, Asheville Beauty Salon Injury Lawyer Blog

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