Days after Eldrick “Tiger” Woods filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend against a trust that retains an interest in his Florida mansion, the trustee has asked a court to send the case to arbitration and reject Erica Herman’s citation of sexual assault survivor laws.
Christopher J. Hubman, the trustee of Woods’ massive Hobe Sound residence who is also represented by the golfer’s lawyer J.B Murray, said that Herman engaged in “a transparent abuse of the judicial process” when her lawyers cited those laws — to avoid arbitration — without actually making a sexual harassment or sexual assault claim.
As Law&Crime reported at length last week on the fallout of the acrimonious breakup, Herman first filed a lawsuit in October against the Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead Trust, alleging that she was unlawfully booted from the residence in violation of an “oral tenancy agreement.” As part of the ongoing litigation, Herman has since asked a Martin County judge in a separate suit to declare that a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) she signed is “invalid and unenforceable”; the NDA required disputes with Woods to be adjudicated in private arbitration. Plaintiff Herman next cited two federal sexual assault and harassment survivor laws that are meant to prevent victims from being forced into secret arbitration.
The defendant trust responded Monday by categorically rejecting Herman’s claims.
“Plaintiff Erica Herman asserts that this Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the claims pursuant to 9 U.S.C. §§ 401-402, which states, among other things, that a party to an arbitration agreement cannot be compelled to arbitrate a ‘sexual assault dispute’ or a ‘sexual harassment dispute.’ Ms. Herman alleges, ‘once the Plaintiff invoked this statute, it requires the Court to decide whether Plaintiff’s claim is arbitrable,'” the trustee argued. “Yet Ms. Herman does nothing more than cite 9 U.S.C. §§ 401-402 and its salacious title, ‘The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act.'”
The trustee then called Herman’s reference to sexual assault or harassment survivor laws “a transparent abuse.”
“She has never asserted any claims for sexual assault or sexual harassment, does not do so in this landlord-tenant action, and, if she is truthful, can never do so. Ms. Herman’s bare reference to the statute, without any allegations to support its application to the facts of this case, is insufficient to relieve Ms. Herman from her contractual obligation to arbitrate,” the trustee added. “Rather, it is a transparent abuse of the judicial process that undermines the purpose of the federal statute and those whom the statute seeks to protect.”
The trustee has, therefore, asked Judge Elizabeth Metzger to “review the allegations” and find that this is not a sexual assault or harassment dispute subject to adjudication in the courts.
“Ms. Herman is a not a victim of sexual assault or abuse sought to be protected by Congress when enacting the statute. Rather, Ms. Herman is a jilted ex-girlfriend who wants to publicly litigate specious claims in court, rather than honor her commitment to arbitrate disputes in a confidential arbitration proceeding,” the trustee’s lawyers said in closing.
As recently as last Wednesday, Tiger Woods filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit against the trust. As Law&Crime noted previously, Woods is not a named defendant in the initial Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act suit (hence the motion to intervene). The golfer is only a named defendant at this time in Herman’s suit over the NDA.
Over the course of 12 pages, Woods’ filing said that Herman was not, in fact, entitled to live on the property “rent-free” for multiple years after their breakup.
“Ms. Herman’s complaint alleges that the oral tenancy agreement was breached when Mr. Woods terminated his romantic relationship with her and, among other things, advised her that she was no longer a welcome guest in the Residence,” the Woods filing said. “Though this action involves Mr. Woods’ personal residence and arises out of Mr. Woods’ decision that Plaintiff should no longer live in his home following the breakup, Plaintiff did not sue Mr. Woods.”
“Rather, to avoid an agreement Plaintiff made to arbitrate all disputes with Mr. Woods,” the golfer’s lawyers alleged, “Plaintiff sued a trust owning only a limited remainder interest in the Residence.”
In addition, Woods’ lawyers called the decision to sue the trust “nothing more than a transparent attempt by Ms. Herman to avoid her contractual obligation to arbitrate and to gain leverage by litigating her disputes with Mr. Woods in a public forum.” In the filing, the lawyers said Tiger Woods was motioning to intervene in the suit “as a necessary means of enforcing his right to arbitrate disputes with Ms. Herman” after she advanced the “specious argument” that the landlord-tenant claims amounted to a sexual harassment dispute.
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