Washington Court of Appeals rejects negligence claim against tattoo parlor

Chester v. Deep Roots Alderwood, LLC, No. 73225-1-I (Wash. Ct. App. Apr. 4, 2016).

Anna Chester got a tattoo. Unbeknownst to either Chester or the tattoo parlor, though, some of the ink had been contaminated during manufacture. As a result, Chester suffered a serious bacterial infection, the infection caused her kidneys to fail, and Chester now requires dialysis. Chester sued the tattoo parlor for negligence.

Chester asserts that the parlor was negligent because it violating a Washington regulation and statute requiring the use of sterile ink. Washington has mostly abolished the doctrine—usually dubbed negligence per se—under which negligence may be committed merely by violating certain statutes or regulations. It has carved out an exception, however, for statutes or regulations about the sterilization of needles and instruments used in body art and tattooing: violating those statutes or regulations can count as negligence per se. As the Washington Court of Appeals sees it, however, no Washington statute or regulations actually requires sterile ink (as opposed, say, to sterile tattoo needles). No regulatory violation, no negligence per se.

Chester argues, as an alternative path to victory, that she’s made out a claim for plain-vanilla negligence. The Washington Court of Appeals rejects this argument, too. Sterile ink is not industry-standard. While some ink makers have claimed their ink is sterile, studies have undercut their claims. Because Chester hasn’t shown that truly sterile ink was readily available to the tattoo parlor, her negligence claim is rejected.