Claims Over Water Issues: Preventing Loss

Written by Susan Preston

Day spas in America are doing well. They combine services and offer the busy client more than one option for beauty treatments. Most spa owners understand the need for professional liability and property insurance, but there are also some general liability issues that spas have. Some of the largest claims paid relate to water.


While a small beauty salon that cuts hair might not have much water exposure, a larger facility with saunas, showers, and soaking pools will have more liability. A day spa should never be without liability insurance. Many are caught by surprise when the unexpected happens, especially if it relates to an unanticipated slip and fall or injury arising out of an activity at the spa.



A spa is meant to be a relaxing place, where people can loosen up during the time they are there. Clients are not expecting to have to be aware of hazards such as wet floors. If there is water on the floor, people will slip. It is inevitable and sometimes this leads to a lawsuit. Water sources that lead to problems can include showers without grab bars, steam rooms without rubber mats, and pedicure tubs that aren’t well monitored. Spa managers and staff should all be alert to water on the floor and immediately clean it up.



A few years ago, a situation arose where a spa manager left a woman sitting in a hot tub. He had forgotten about her. She died of heart failure due to the length of time she was in the heat. The insurance company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in the settlement. While not all claims will get your insurance non-renewed, this was a case of gross negligence by the spa management that resulted in non-renewal.



There was also a claim where the door slammed on a client coming out of a steam room. Their Achilles heel was torn. This injury takes a long time to heal, making for high liability judgements. Spas with multiple water sources would do well to consider getting higher than normal limits of general liability insurance.



If a client simply klutzes out due to any number of random factors, the spa still could be liable, even if they weren’t at fault. People can sue for anything, no matter how much they contributed to the problem. Years ago, we had a case where a woman tripped and fell while wearing stiletto heels. That was clearly the reason she slipped, not due to the condition of the floor, yet she still sued the spa. Ultimately the claimant lost the lawsuit, but it cost almost $50,000 in legal fees to handle the case. Since the spa had general liability, the insurance carrier paid all legal costs.


In another instance, an 80-year-old woman slipped and fell due to the fact she was dizzy from sitting so long in the salon chair and, when she got up, blood rushed to her head. The spa had less liability, as there was no hazard on the floor, such as water. In this case, that was a mitigating circumstance leading to a relatively low settlement. The point is, still, that spas cannot prevent lawsuits, but loss control measures reduce potential for high claim settlements.


If the spa has showers, saunas, or pools, one of the best loss control measures is to have non-stick flooring everywhere there is an egress from a water source. The use of proper flooring can go a long way to mitigating losses. Being aware of water issues, doing what it takes to prevent losses, and carrying general liability insurance are steps a spa needs to take to best protect their business from claims and problems.


Susan Preston 2019Susan 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.






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