A Vancouver salon owner says she’s glad a small claims court sided with her against a client who sued for what she called an “unbalanced” haircut.
But Lorri Dar says she can’t help but think the woman’s complaints about unwanted “frizz” should never have ended up in court.
The British Columbia Civil Resolution Court this week dismissed Sapanjit Chohan’s lawsuit against Dar’s East Vancouver Kokopelli Salon for lack of evidence, finding that “it is common knowledge that some haircuts are better than others”.
“That’s what we face in our industry,” Dar told CBC.
“Besides being mixologists, chemists and artists, we also take care of the mind. I can tell you that you look gorgeous. But you might not feel like it. I can give you the best cut you you’ve ever had, but maybe you still don’t feel like it.”
“Clumps instead of curls”
The small claims case highlights the dangers of suing over a haircut – a tangled legal story that touches on the need for expert witnesses, “obsessive” grooming and male perms.
Chohan went to Kokopelli on June 1, 2021 to have her hair cut by an employee identified only by the initial L.
She messaged L to complain later that night, and spoke by phone and text with Dar, who invited her to come back so they could “try to fix her hair to her satisfaction” – a offer which Chohan refused.
“She says the haircut was unbalanced, had clumps rather than curls at the bottom, and had ‘more frizz’ and wispy locks,” wrote court member Micah Carmody.
“In terms of technique, Ms. Chohan says L ‘dry-cut’ her hair and ‘randomly cut here and there’, ‘razor-cut’ her bangs, seemed distracted by another client and failed to cut Mrs. Chohan’s split ends.”
Dar argued that Chohan had “unreasonable expectations”.
She said hair cells change over time, requiring stylists and clients to “do their best to work with what the client and the hair allow them to do.”
“She also says that split ends cannot be entirely eliminated without cutting off a large portion of the old hair,” Carmody wrote.
“I accept these statements undisputed.”
Confronted with before and after photographs of the haircut, Carmody noted some “long frizzy ends” and a slight imbalance in length, but nothing that would warrant claims for damages.
“Ms. Chohan’s hair appears to fall just above her shoulders in all photos,” Carmody wrote.
“In any event, I find that L was probably trying to balance Ms Chohan’s conflicting demands not to remove too much hair but to get rid of split ends.”
Hair negligence and expert witnesses
In dismissing Chohan’s lawsuit, Carmody said previous court rulings have established that “negligent hair care can result in harm.”
In 2002, a Kelowna judge awarded $800 to a woman whose Rapunzel-like locks had been damaged by careless application of “foil” and excessive brushing.
The victim has been “growing and pampering” her hair for 15 years.
“I expect some people to say she was ‘obsessive,'” Judge said.
The woman claimed to have watched in horror as a new employee combed “dry, sticky conditioner causing huge chunks” of hair to fall out.
The key in this case was an expert witness in the form of a stylist who “interviewed” the woman after the hair disaster. She estimated that it would take “a few more years for her hair to return to its previous healthy state, and about five to six years for it to return to its original length.”
Expert testimony also proved crucial for a Vancouver man who was awarded $6,500 in 2001 for a botched perm. The victim claimed to have suffered burns to his scalp and neck when a stylist failed to follow instructions for applying a “permanent wave” solution.
“He said he was so bothered by the peeling of his neck that he had to wear turtlenecks for a very long time to conceal it,” the decision in the case reads.
“He said he had flare-ups twice a week in the winter and spring and four times a week in the summer, and he couldn’t wear t-shirts because if the sun hit his neck it caused him problems.”
“Do due diligence”
Dar says she felt bad that Chohan wasn’t happy with her haircut, but says she did everything she could to try to resolve the situation and to verify her employee’s work.
“Anyone can have a day off,” she says. “If there was a discrepancy, there would be no problem there. It would have been taken care of immediately, repaired or the money refunded.”
Dar filed a counterclaim for damages she claimed she suffered as a result of online comments Chohan made defaming her business.
She was asking for $1,500 and an apology, but Carmody said the court could not deal with libel and libel suits — which are the domain of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Dar says the industry runs on word of mouth and negative reviews travel quickly.
She says hairdressers may not think they’ll end up in court, but there’s a sure way to protect yourself if you do.
“Do your due diligence and take care of things immediately, and try to communicate with the person who has the problem,” she says.
“If you did something wrong, you have to fix it. If you can’t fix it, you have to return the money. It’s like any service you do. You take a car and it comes back worse, so you have to deal with it. It’s your responsibility in the industry.