Wrong tattoos: Can you get compensation for pain and suffering?


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Tattooists also make mistakes – this is often particularly annoying for their customers when wrong tattoos are involved. In certain cases, however, the injured party can claim damages or compensation for pain and suffering.

Once a tattoo is done, it is difficult to remove. Some incorrectly executed work leads to permanent skin changes or pain. Questions quickly arise, such as: Do the injured parties have to put themselves under the needle again at the same tattoo artist in order to have the wrong tattoo touched up?

When and in what amount can you claim damages or compensation for pain and suffering? Can one demand that the removal of the unsuccessful work by laser be paid for? Here are a few examples from case law.

Case 1: Wrong tattoo: No compensation for damages without rework

wrong tattoo

The first case concerns a 17-year-old from Munich who – without her parents’ knowledge – had herself tattooed. She had a Coptic cross stabbed on the inside of her wrist. She paid the bill of 50 euros from her wages from her job in an ice cream parlor.

However, she came back to the tattoo artist after a week and asked for the tattoo to be removed by laser because it was crooked. However, the tattoo artist did not believe her. In his opinion, she had tried to remove the tattoo herself. It looked very washed out and the skin had gotten a kind of crust. In his opinion it wasn’t wrong. He refused to remove it and offered a touch up.

The customer refused. She demanded compensation in the amount of 50 euros for the cost of the tattoo, plus 799 euros for the removal of the tattoo by laser at another tattoo studio. Once she came of age, she filed a lawsuit.

The Munich District Court emphasized that a contract for a tattoo is a normal contract for work and services according to the German Civil Code – regulated in § 631 ff. BGB. Despite her minority, this contract was effectively concluded without the consent of her parents. After all, she paid for the tattoo with her own money, earned with the consent of her parents, which she could freely dispose of. Section 110 of the German Civil Code (BGB), the so-called pocket money paragraph, was used.

The prerequisite for claims based on a defective work performance is that the customer first gives the contractor the opportunity for subsequent performance or repair. Only if this fails, is unreasonable for her or is refused by the tattoo artist, she can assert claims for poor work performance. However, she failed to do this here.

There is also no entitlement to compensation for pain and suffering here: she herself consented to the injury to her body by tattooing. Since she had the necessary insight, this consent is also effective despite her minority (judgment of March 17, 2012, Az. 213 C 917/11).

Case 2: Compensation for damages without rework

The second case concerned a customer who had a colored flower and tendrils pricked on her right shoulder blade. Only the tattoo was introduced into too deep layers of skin by the tattoo artist. The result had hardly anything to do with the agreed design: there were color gradients, lines were wrong and other lines were irregularly thick.

The offered rework was rejected by the customer. Instead, she went to court.

The Hamm Higher Regional Court saw the stinging of a tattoo as a physical injury that was only justified by the consent of the customer. However, she only gave her consent for a tattoo corresponding to the design. However, this had not been stabbed her. This alone justifies a claim to compensation for pain and suffering. The court awarded her 750 euros.

In addition, there would be a claim to compensation for material and immaterial damage occurring in the future. This may include the cost of laser removal of the tattoo, possible medical treatment, and possible compensation for pain afterwards.

She does not have to allow a touch-up by the same tattoo artist first. He made such serious mistakes – technically and artistically – that it was unreasonable for her to make improvements. Since it is about work, the tolerance of which is associated with physical pain and which – poorly carried out – could lead to health impairments, the trust of the customer in the skills of the tattoo artist is of particular importance (judgment of 5 March 2014, case no. 12 U 151/13).

Case 3: Painful skin changes

wrong tattoo

The third case involved a customer who had her right lower leg tattooed. This was her fourth tattoo. However, after six months, her skin became inflamed in the area of ​​red-violet color pigments.

Ultimately, the skin even had to be surgically removed there. The woman accused the tattoo artist of insufficient risk education. He also used contaminated colors and did not work hygienically.

He couldn’t even name the batch number of the paints used. Therefore, she demanded 6,000 euros in compensation for pain and suffering and around 1,800 euros in damages.

The Coburg Regional Court pointed out that a tattoo artist had no duty to inform, like a doctor, for example. The tattoo was carried out here before the so-called Tattooing Agent Ordinance came into force in 2009. At that time there were practically no rules about which dyes could be used.

It was permissible for the tattoo artist to have relied on the manufacturer’s information. No violations of the hygiene rules can be proven. Then there should have been problems with the entire tattoo and not just with the red-violet tattooed areas.

The customer had experience with tattoos and consented to injuring her body. They have no claims for damages or compensation for pain and suffering (judgment of February 14, 2012, Az. 11 O 567/10).

Case 4: Bio-Tattoo does not dissolve – compensation for pain and suffering!

wrong tattoo

So-called organic tattoos should dissolve and become invisible after three to seven years. In the fourth case, this did not happen. The plaintiff had such a tattoo on her stomach at a trade fair stand.

It was promised, among other things, on a flyer from the stand operator that this should end after seven years at the latest. However, it was still there after over ten years. This customer also asked for damages and compensation for pain and suffering.

The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court saw the tattoo here as bodily harm. The customer’s consent extended to a temporary but not to a permanent tattoo. The right to compensation and compensation for pain and suffering is not statute-barred.

The statute of limitations can only begin when the claim is due. But this is only the case after the seven years have elapsed.

The tattoo artist not only had to pay damages and compensation for pain and suffering, but was also sentenced to compensate the customer for possible future damage (removal of the tattoo by laser) and pain (judgment of October 22, 2008, Az. 7 U 125/08).

Practical tip

Time and again, mistakes or undesirable results occur with tattoos. It is important to be able to prove the agreements made with the tattoo artist. In the event of a dispute, a lawyer specializing in civil law can help you enforce your claims.

Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.



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