A woman who said she was injured and left permanently scarred during a bikini wax procedure at an Atlanta hair salon has settled her claims for $250,000 following a one-day mediation on Wednesday.
Attorney Susan Witt Langlais represented the plaintiff, Elisheva Williams. The defense was initially handled by in-house counsel for The Hartford insurance company, but the case was turned over to Fain, Major & Brennan partner Gene Major as it progressed, Langlais said. The Daily Report was unable to contact Major on Thursday afternoon.
According to Langlais and the complaint in the case, Williams, 31, purchased a bikini wax—her first—through Groupon for a discounted rate. A bikini wax involves applying hot wax and cloth strips to a woman’s pubic hair, covering it with strips of cloth, then peeling off the hair and wax together.
Williams went to the Hair Images salon near the intersection of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff Road on Nov. 16, 2014. She asked the staffer who was to perform the procedure, Chaya Gurung, whether the procedure would be painful and whether she used a “gentle method of wax removal.”
Gurung “reassured Williams that she would be fine” as Gurung had been performing the procedure for two years, the complaint said.
During the procedure, Williams “expressed that she was in a great deal of pain,” it said. Afterward, Williams noticed she was bleeding “a bit,” but Gurung told her that was normal and applied a “generous amount of powder to her entire vaginal area.”
Gurung also gave Williams a maxi pad to put in her underwear to absorb the blood, after which she left the salon, still in a “great deal of pain.”
When Williams got home, she was “shocked to see a large open and actively bleeding tear” on her vagina. She returned to Hair Images and showed Gurung and the salon’s operators, Feroz Aladin and Rabarb Aladin, her injury; then she went to the Northside Hospital Emergency Room, where she was treated for a 5-centimeter vaginal laceration.
Williams declined to have stitches, Langlais said, and the wound eventually healed, leaving a scar on her labia.
“From a physical standpoint, vaginal function and everything remained intact,” she said. “But she had this scar that caused pain and discomfort during intercourse, and served as a reminder every time she went to the bathroom.”
In April 2015, Langlais filed a negligence suit on Williams’ behalf in DeKalb County State Court, naming Hair Images and two corporate officers, Natasha Aladin and Rahim Aladin, as defendants. She also named a “Jane Doe” defendant because at the time she didn’t have Gurung’s name.
She later amended the complaint to include punitive damages, and added as co-counsel Warshauer Law Group lawyer Michael Perez, whom she said would have helped had the case gone to trial.
“One of the interesting things about this case was that, even though it started out as a premises liability case, I worked it up like a medical malpractice case,” said Langlais. In researching the case, she found that—unlike other professional licensees—suits against cosmetologists do not require expert affidavits.
“I didn’t need an expert, but I got one anyway,” said Langlais, who retained cosmetology instructor Ursula Washington to consult on professional standards.
Langlais said that, as discovery progressed, it became apparent that the defendants had violated numerous industry guidelines and requirements.
“They failed to follow all the industry standards,” she said. “They were supposed to collect client information, whether there are skin sensitivities, because waxing is not appropriate for certain people: they may be on a blood thinner or a product, like Accutane, that makes your skin more sensitive.”
There were also licensing issues, Langlais said, which made it tricky because—if the person who performed the procedure was not properly licensed—the insurer might declare any jury award outside the limits of its coverage.
Because of the potential coverage problem, she said, “I was going to have to take the position that we weren’t going to raise the licensure issue at trial.”
Langlais didn’t have to make that decision. On Wednesday, after a one-day mediation before former Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gino Brogdon of Henning Mediation and Arbitration Services, the defense agreed to settle for $250,000.
Langlais said Major and the defendant’s coverage counsel for the arbitration, Barbara Marschalk, were a pleasure to work with, and she also credited Brogdon.
“I trust him; I think he gives very sound guidance during a mediation,” she said.
She also praised Williams who, said Langlais, refused to bow to pressure to keep the settlement confidential.
“Ms. Williams wants the ability to talk about it; she wants some long-term changes in the way these businesses are run,” said Langlais.
The case is Williams v. Hair Images Inc., No. 15A55276-6.