Woman files $1 million lawsuit against Henrico nail salon

Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 2:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2016 at 7:33 AM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Central Virginia woman is suing a Henrico nail salon and owner for $1 million for allegedly giving her a painful bacterial infection and scars on her legs.

Our 12 On Your Side Investigation revealed it's not the only local nail salon where the state Cosmetology Board has found problems.

"Two or three weeks later, she starts to develop these kind of pimple-like sores on her legs," said attorney Robert Reed of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen.

Lawyers for Samantha Payne say painful lesions developed on her legs after a pedicure. She was diagnosed with a cutaneous mycobacterial infection, which causes boils to grow up the legs.

"They had to be removed surgically, and it took several procedures to get those done, leaving her with scarring on her legs," said Payne's other attorney Jamie Kessel.

"Basins used at the nail salon, they didn't properly clean in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations," added Reed.

Payne filed a complaint with the Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology. The board doesn't rule on specific infections, but investigated the salon and revoked its license, saying it "was negligent in failing to clean the pedicure chair basins pursuant to the manufacturer's guidelines."

Payne's attorneys filed a lawsuit against the salon and its owner for more than $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

"I think it's a wake up call in the industry, just to be more aware that they need to follow their procedures," said Reed.

Payne's pedicure took place in 2012 in what was then Red Nails of T & I at 1601 Willow Lawn Drive in Richmond. State records show the salon, now called just Red Nails, is under new ownership and in good standing with the Cosmetology Board with no disciplinary actions.

We made multiple attempts to contact the original owner, Thu-Huong Thi Vo, but did not hear back. Her former attorney filed an answer to the lawsuit, denying all the allegations and moving to dismiss some of the claims.

We asked the Cosmetology Board's Executive Director Demetrios Melis how often it receives complaints or finds problems during inspections in nail salons, out of the hundreds in Central Virginia.

"It's not very often. We like to think that our minimum requirements that we've set up, and that the Board has set up as a Policy Board, actually does a great job to make sure there is minimal infection," said Melis.

In the last two and half years, only three other nail salons in Central Virginia have been disciplined. All three were in Chesterfield. One was fined for failing to keep wash basins and instruments clean. A customer reported getting a staph infection. Two others were fined for having an unlicensed technician that customers say cut them.

To make sure your nail salon is operating properly, Melis says check that both the salon and your individual nail technician are licensed. You can look it up their licenses and any disciplinary actions on DPOR.Virginia.gov.

Melis also says stainless steel foot basins can cut the risk of infection. Not shaving your legs for 24 hours before a pedicure is also recommended.

"Look for general cleanliness, a neat facility," said Melis. "Make sure there are no implements lying around. Always ask, 'How do you disinfect?'"

Payne's attorneys say this incident has changed their client's life forever.

"Really, it's taken a confident, attractive young lady and made her to be self-conscious about her legs," said Kessel.

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