WA Case Update: Bad Ink: Does a Tattoo Artist Breach a Duty of Care When Using Contaminated Ink?

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Does a tattoo artist owe a duty of care to use sterile ink when applying a tattoo? Find out how the Washington Court of Appeals answered this question.

Claims Pointer: The Washington Court of Appeals held neither the regulations governing the tattoo industry, nor the common law impose a duty on tattoo artists to use sterile ink. The court emphasized plain statutory text as well as the lack of evidence that sterile ink was available, sterile claims were reliable, or that tattoo artists had the means to test contaminated or sterile ink.

Chester v. Deep Roots Alderwood, LLC, No. 73225-1-1, Washington Court of Appeals, Div. I (April 4, 2016).

Anna Chester (“Chester”) suffered a serious adverse reaction to contaminated ink after getting a tattoo by Bonnie Gillison (“Gillison”), a tattoo artist at Deep Roots Alderwood, LLC (“Deep Roots”). Gillison used One brand tattoo ink, a popular ink that she had used for approximately a year and a half without issue. She ordered the ink from Kingpin, a distributor from whom she ordered many supplies.

After applying Chester’s tattoo, Gillison learned that several clients were experiencing adverse reactions to the black ink portions of their tattoos. King County Public Health traced the reactions to a particular bottle of One brand black tattoo ink and further concluded that the contamination was during manufacture. While most of Gillison’s clients only suffered a minor skin irritation, Chester, was diagnosed with a bacterial infection and was prescribed antibiotics. The infection did not respond to the prescribed treatment and Chester experienced a rapid decline in kidney function. While an infectious disease specialist was ultimately able to successfully treat the infection, Chester experienced kidney failure and had to begin dialysis prior to the infection being brought under control.

Chester brought product liability and negligence claims against Gillison and Deep Roots. Gillison...

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