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Tattoo Skin Infection Lawsuit

The popularity of body art has become a phenomenon in recent years, with more than 20,000 tattoo parlors now operating in the U.S. However, with this increase in popularity, so too has there been an increase in skin infections and other injuries in people who have received tattoos. Infections can result from contaminated ink, reused needles and other unsanitary practices.


Free Confidential Evaluation: If you or a loved one developed a skin infection or other injury after getting a tattoo, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and we can help.

What’s the Problem?

Decorative body art has been practiced in many cultures for thousands of years. In primitive times, tattoos were used for embellishment, social rank and individual distinction. This remains the case today, as the popularity of tattoos has exploded in western cultures over the past 10-20 years. Unfortunately, with the rise in number of people getting tattoos, an increase in the number of tattoo-associated injuries has also been reported.

How Do Tattoo Injuries Occur?

Skin infections and other tattoo-related injuries can occur for a number of reasons including:

  • The tattoo artist reuses their needles, resulting in bacterial contamination.
  • The tattoo parlor and/or area around the customer chair is unsanitary, increasing the risk of contamination to the customer.
  • The tattoo artist doesn’t wash his or her hands or use gloves.
  • The needle was improperly sterilized.
  • The artist may have an infectious disease or other communicable illness.
  • Chemicals in the ink may be tainted with bacteria.
  • The artist may not have reviewed the customer’s medical history to avoid allergic reactions.

Tattoo Ink Skin Infection Outbreak

In August 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on outbreaks of Mycobacterium skin infections in New York, Colorado and Iowa residents who were tattooed with the same nationally-distributed prediluted gray ink. The use of ink that was contaminated before distribution or prior to tattooing likely led to infections in each of the outbreaks.

Skin infections associated with tattoo ink can range from mild inflammation (e.g., rash, papules, or nodules) to severe abscesses requiring surgical removal. These types of infections are difficult to manage and can require extended treatment with antibiotic medications. Physicians who encounter persistent inflammation around new tattoos should consider the possibility of infection.

Types of Infections

Tattoos have been linked to the following types of skin infections:

  • Nontuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) infections (Mycobacterium chelonae)
  • Impetigo
  • Cellulitis
  • Herpes simplex
  • Viral warts
  • Atypical mycobacterial infection

Blood-borne infections associated with tattoos include:

  • Syphilis
  • Leprosy
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

How Can Tattoo Ink Become Contaminated?

Contamination of tattoo ink can occur during the manufacturing process as a result of using tainted ingredients, or when artists dilute ink with non-sterile water. There are currently no specific FDA regulations that require tattoo inks to be sterile. However, the CDC recommends that ink manufacturers ensure that their products are sterile and that artists avoid diluting their ink with non-sterile water.

Tattoo Supplies Recall

On July 15, 2014, the FDA announced that White & Blue Lion, Inc. was recalling all lots of its tattoo ink, needles, cups and kits due to bacterial contamination. Use of these products may cause infections leading to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication that occurs when the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs. Click here for a complete list of White & Blue Lion tattoo supplies affected by this recall.

Tattoos and Cancer

In addition to the risk of skin infections, some scientists are concerned that ultramicroscopic nanoparticles contained in tattoo inks and dyes could be absorbed into the body and accumulate in the spleen and kidneys. These organs filter toxins out of the body, and hindering their ability to do so could increase the risk of cancer. Click here to read more about the link between tattoos and cancer.

Allergic Reactions

Tattoo inks contain unregulated ingredients that some people may be allergic to. Toxic chemicals like iron oxide, mercury sulfide, aluminum and manganese have all been found in tattoo dyes, and an allergy to one of these substances may cause a severe allergic reaction once the ink is injected into the skin. Red ink is the most common cause of tattoo allergies, although any color can cause a reaction.

Tattoo Removal

It has been estimated that about 50% of all people who get tattoos later regret their decision. In the past, these people had little recourse aside from expensive and painful invasive surgery. However, new laser tattoo removal techniques are helping people rid themselves of body art they no longer desire. Laser tattoo removal is a low risk, bloodless alternative to traditional surgery that causes few serious side effects.

Standards of Care

If you have decided to get a tattoo, you should expect these minimum standards of care from the artist and parlor:

  • The artist should ask you a list of medical questions before doing any work
  • A valid health and safety certificate should be displayed at the work station
  • The artist should instruct you as to the appropriate aftercare procedures
  • They should inquire about any allergies or health conditions that could result in problems with the tattoo
  • The tattoo parlor should keep a record of each client consultation for up to two years
  • A new sterile needle must be used on each client
  • The artist should wash their hands thoroughly and wear disposable latex gloves before doing any work

Tattoo Parlor Insurance & Licensing Laws

To combat the rising number of tattoo-related injuries, 47 U.S. states have enacted laws requiring tattoo parlors to be licensed. Only New Mexico, North Dakota and Washington, D.C., currently allow tattoo shops to operate unlicensed.

To protect themselves from personal injury claims, most shops also now carry insurance. Without insurance, a proprietor exposes themselves to the financial burden of a lawsuit or settlement agreement. One successful lawsuit can put an uninsured tattoo parlor out of business permanently.


Negligence is a legal principle that holds a tattoo parlor liable for injuries to clients. To be successful in proving negligence, the injured party must show that:

  • The tattoo parlor breached its duties by not meeting required standards of care
  • That an injury occurred
  • The breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injury

It can be difficult to prove negligence because it is up to the plaintiff to show that the conduct of the tattoo artist or parlor caused the injury. The parlor will likely counter that it was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and that the plaintiff was responsible or there was some other cause for the injury. If negligence cannot be proven, the plaintiff may attempt a breach of contract lawsuit.

Can I Sue a Tattoo Artist Over an Infection?

In order to successfully win a tattoo skin infection lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the artist was negligent, and that their negligence caused the infection. The client will need to prove the ink was contaminated or that needles were dirty, and have a doctor to testify as to causation of the infection. These issues are difficult to prove, but nonetheless the client has the right to sue.

CDC Recommendation

If you are on the market for a tattoo, the CDC recommends the following precautionary measures to avoid skin infections and other injuries:

  • Only use tattoo shops that are registered by local jurisdictions
  • Request ink products that are specifically made for tattoos
  • Ensure that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic and sterilization procedures
  • Be aware of the potential for skin infections and other injuries, and seek immediate medical attention if problems occur
  • Notify the tattoo artist and health authorities in the event of an injury

Do I Have a Tattoo Skin Infection Lawsuit?

The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Tattoo Skin Infection Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

Again, if you or a loved one developed a skin infection or other injury after getting a tattoo, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Tattoo Skin Infection Suit and we can help.

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