Smith v Hair Associates Hairdressing Treatment – Failure to carry out a skin patch test

On 25th August 2007, Miss Smith who was 18 years old attended the Defendant’s hair salon with her mother to have her hair highlighted. She had had her hair highlighted on previous occasions, but this was the first time she had attended the Defendant’s salon. She agreed to pay £161.00 for the treatment. The stylist failed to carry out a patch test before starting the treatment and as soon as the highlighting foils and solution were applied to her hair, she noticed that a part of the back of her head began to burn. She touched the area where she felt the burning sensation and noticed that it was hot and therefore mentioned this to the stylist and asked for the foil to be removed. Initially, the stylist refused to do so but eventually began to remove the foil after Miss Smith repeated the request. The stylist appeared to burn her hands as she removed the foil and used gloves to remove the remaining pieces of foil. She then washed the solution out and Miss Smith noticed that clumps of her hair was coming away from her scalp into the basin as she was doing so. Nevertheless, the stylist dried and styled her hair and Miss Smith left the salon. She was not given any advice about the area of her head where she felt the burning sensation. Her mother inspected her head after they left the salon and noticed a small red patch on the scalp that was beginning to blister. The patch on her scalp was sore and she attended her GP on 29th August 2007 and again on 31st August. She was found to have hair loss and pus emanating from the chemical burn on her head and was prescribed antibiotics.

On 10th September, the GP referred her to a Specialist Burns Unit for treatment. The patch had grown in size and she was losing hair from the surrounding area. Miss Smith underwent debridement of the wound and underwent a skin grafting procedure, with tissue being taken from her buttocks and placed over the wound.

Miss Smith has been left with a bald patch at the back of head which measures 5 x 8 centimetres in size and the hair will not grow back over this area. She has been recommended to undergo a serial excision procedure to treat the loss of hair growth and scarring. This treatment involves a number of operations to cut out the skin graft, leaving her with a smaller horizontal scar at the back of her head.

A psychiatric report was obtained indicating that Miss Smith is suffering from psychological disturbance which involves mild problems in relation to her self image and confidence. She was diagnosed with a mild adjustment disorder which has left her feeling less confident and more preoccupied with her looks. It was recommended that she ought to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy to address the issues of confidence and self esteem.

Liability was admitted on 12th June 2009. A Part 36 offer was made and negotiations ended in settlement being reached in the sum of £21,250.00. A rough breakdown of the settlement figure is £14,000.00 for General Damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity and £7,250.00 (being namely for future medical costs) for out of pocket expenses.

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