You might not think stiletto heels have anything to do with the spa or insurance. But, as an insurance broker of many years for the beauty and skin care industry, I can tell you otherwise. As of this date, we have had three claims in the last 10 years which were due to stiletto heels. It’s amazing to think of women’s shoes as being anything more than a fashion statement – but beware.
The first claim was in a popular beach area in southern California. The spa had purple and white checkered tiled floors. Those floors made a woman in stiletto heels dizzy and, thus, she tripped, fell, and damaged her back. Since she didn’t have health insurance, the spa was sued. The insurance company argued she took her own risk by wearing stiletto heels. Ultimately, this view prevailed and the woman did not receive any insurance payment. However, the legal fees totaled over $49,000. If the spa did not have insurance, the owner would have had to pay this out of their own pocket.
Lessons can be learned from this story. Should the spa have posted a sign stating, “No stiletto heels”? I don’t think so. Did the checkered tiles make her dizzy? Not likely. It is hard to imagine any reasonable person would have foreseen the combination of checkered floors and stiletto heels would lead to a claim. The main conclusion to be reached is irrational people are everywhere and the best way to protect the business is to carry liability insurance. If not, plan to have a minimum of $50,000 in the bank at all times and keep your fingers crossed.
The second stiletto heel claim involved a woman who tripped and fell outside the front door and blamed it on the spa. No one could have predicted this would happen. The sidewalk outside the spa appeared to be safe, so no one, except the stiletto heel wearer, could accuse the spa owner of negligence. Negligence is what was alleged in the lawsuit, among other points. In fact, maintenance of the sidewalk was the responsibility of the landlord, but the landlord argued that she was not responsible for who came into the spa. This argument prevailed. The spa’s insurance company ended up paying the woman about $2,000 for her medical injuries, after paying $13,500 in investigation and defense costs.
Unless you want to be the fashion police and post a no stiletto heel policy, the only option is to carry insurance. Bad luck happens and it has nothing to do with how nice your spa is.
The third claim ended up costing the insurer. The woman with stiletto heels tripped over a misplaced chair and fell. There was a small percentage of negligence on the part of the spa because the chair should not have been there. The insurer ended up paying the claimant $70,000, not counting legal fees. In most claims of any type, the business owner is never 100% to blame. The law does not require you to be 100% liable to award damages to the injured party. The carrier chose not to fight this in court, as legal fees would have cost well over $70,000 and the indication was the chair was not supposed to be in that spot.
The lessons to be learned from these instances are that all businesses have to be as carefully run and organized as possible. For those instances when there is either bad luck or women in stiletto heels, the only way to protect yourself is with liability insurance. It is a much smaller price to pay than at least $50,000 to $100,000 in legal and indemnity costs that might accrue from bad luck.
Susan Preston has been at the forefront of insurance program innovation since 1993 when she founded Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB) in Novato, California. Preston is also the co-founder of a nonprofit association setting standards for the permanent makeup industry, Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP). With industry involvement, Preston and PPIB have been leaders in insurance programs for emerging markets and for the spa industry. Due to the national reputation of PPIB, in 2016 and 2017, Insurance Business America Magazine named Preston one of the 144 Elite Women in Insurance. ppibcorp.com