The former girlfriend of Tiger Woods has filed a 53-page brief in a Florida state appeals court in an effort to revive her public lawsuit against him after a judge threw it out in May.
The document was submitted by the attorney for Erica Herman, who argued that the trial court erred when it decided to push the dispute out of public court and into private arbitration.
The brief also restates that Herman, a former employee at Woods’ restaurant in Florida, was subject to sexual harassment from the famed golfer and therefore should not be compelled to resolve the dispute in private arbitration. Herman’s attorney cites a recently enacted federal law that invalidates non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and forced arbitration in cases of sexual assault or harassment.
“Congress recently passed the Ending Forced Arbitration Of Sexual Assault And Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, precisely to prevent a plaintiff like Ms. Herman from being forced into arbitration by a former boss and sexual partner related to her employment and sexual relationship,” said the brief from the attorney, Benjamin Hodas.
What is the issue with Tiger Woods?
Herman previously argued that Woods pursued a sexual relationship with her when she was his employee and then forced her to sign a non-disclosure agreement about it – or be fired from her job if she did not.
The purported NDA between them from 2017 required her to resolve disputes in private arbitration, but Herman has disputed the validity of that NDA and said she does not recall signing it.
“No one should be forced out of court and into arbitration without proof that they agreed to arbitrate,” said the brief recently filed in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. “But that happened here. The trial court allowed the Appellee (Tiger Woods) to force the Appellant (Erica Herman) out of court without even threshold evidence that he and she agreed to arbitrate. The burden was not high for the Appellee, but he failed to meet it.”
Herman’s appeal stems from a lawsuit she filed against Woods in March that sought to have the NDA declared invalid. In October, she filed a separate lawsuit against the trust Woods established for his residence in Florida, claiming she had an oral tenancy agreement to remain there about five more years but was locked out of the house in violation of that agreement. She claimed more than $30 million in damages in that lawsuit, which she voluntarily suspended in June pending the resolution of the appeal at issue against Woods with her recently filed brief.
What is Woods’ response?
His attorney didn’t return a message seeking comment. He previously denied that Herman had an oral tenancy agreement and said she is “not a victim of sexual assault or abuse sought to be protected by Congress when enacting the statute.”
He also described her as a “jilted ex-girlfriend” who was making “specious claims” to put pressure on Woods, who famously guards his privacy. His position is that the NDA from 2017 is “valid on its face.”
Herman’s attorney disagrees. His appeals brief was filed after he previously asked the trial court judge to reconsider her ruling in May, which was denied.
“Neither party behaved as if the purported agreement (from 2017) governed anything they did,” Herman’s new brief states. “In particular, in October 2022, a dispute arose between Mr. Woods and Ms. Herman, about whether she would be permitted to continue living in the house and whether their relationship would continue. Mr. Woods did not take the dispute to arbitration. Instead, he deployed a scheme of trickery and threats to eject Ms. Herman from the house, take her personal property and pets, and break up with her.”