Does a slimming centre owe a duty of care towards its customers?
THENE ARULMANI CHELVI ARUMUGAM V LONDON WEIGHT MANAGEMENT SDN BHD  1 LNS 1185
- Thene Arulmani Chelvi a/p Arumugam (“Thene”) took up a package of slimming treatments with London Weight Management Sdn Bhd (“LWMSB”).
- After 4 sessions including the trial session, Thene’s health deteriorated and she eventually stopped the course upon advice of a medical doctor who found her condition worsening and her health deteriorating.
- Thene sued LWMSB for pain and suffering, loss and damage caused by its negligence.
- Thene claimed that despite informing LWMSB of her adverse reaction to the various treatments, LWMSB ignored, disregarded and never investigated or looked into her complaints.
- Thene alleged that she reacted badly to the various treatments that she underwent including the sauna and lavender oil and sea salt wraps, that her skin broke out in ulcers, sores and redness and that she was dizzy, had palpitations and was weak and constantly in pain or sore etc.
- When Thene sought a refund of the balance sums already paid in full for her package, LWMSB refused.
- Thene further claimed that her condition had not improved but had worsened and she now suffers from, amongst others, poor visibility and was adverse to the sun.
- LWMSB disputed Thene’s claim and said it was without merit and there was no valid cause of action due to, amongst others, it being a slimming centre and not a medical centre offering medical treatment or advice and therefore, did not owe a duty of care towards Thene.
- LWMSB further claimed that the package was non-refundable.
- The High Court dismissed Thene’s claim on the ground that the claim was not proven at the High Court. Among others, the High Court held that there was a lack of medical evidence linking Thene’s condition to the treatment received from LWMSB.
- Thene appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the High Court decision was plainly wrong and appellate intervention was necessary to correct the injustice.
COURT OF APPEAL DECISION – APPEAL ALLOWED!
- The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and found that Thene had proved the existence of a duty of care owed by LWMSB, that there was a breach of that duty and damage had resulted from such breach.
- The Court of Appeal found that LWMSB certainly owes a duty of care to all its customers, as it is an established specialist slimming centre with relevant expertise and experience in successful slimming treatments or programmes for women who have weight issues.
- The Court of Appeal also held it would be troubling to accept LWMSB’s proposition that because it is a slimming and not medical centre, it does not owe any duty of care to ensure that its customers, including Thene, are suitable, able or even safe to undertake any of their treatments.