An ex-girlfriend of Eldrick “Tiger” Woods filed suit in Florida court this week in an attempt to swat down a 2017 non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as part of a monthslong dispute over her eviction from the star golfer’s residence.
Martin County court records show that Erica Herman commenced legal action against the Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead Trust on Oct. 26, 2022, alleging that after the couple broke up, she was unlawfully tricked into getting kicked out of Tiger Woods’ home after living there for years under an “oral tenancy agreement.”
Claiming a violation of the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act, Herman sued the trust, referring to it as the “owner” of the expansive Hobe Sound estate which the legendary golfer and his children call home. Herman said she was not only “locked out” of the palatial home, but so were her belongings.
“Specifically, by trickery, agents of the Defendant convinced the Plaintiff to pack a suitcase for a short vacation and, when she arrived at the airport, they told her she had been locked out of her residence, in violation of the oral tenancy agreement and in violation of Florida law,” the October filing claimed. “They then informed her she was not allowed to return to her Residence and, without legal counsel to aid her in this emotional moment, they utilized a lawyer to confront her with proposals to resolve the wrongdoing they were in the midst of committing.”
Herman accused the trust’s agents of misappropriating “in excess of $40,000 in cash that belonged to her, making scurrilous and defamatory allegations about how she obtained the money.”
“Plaintiffs actual and consequential damages, in terms of the reasonable rental value of the residence, will be determined at the time of trial, but is likely to be measured in excess of $30,000,000, given the substantial monthly rental value of the Residence,” the filing asserted.
The October filing did not name Tiger Woods, but it did identify his place of residence and Erica Herman is known to be his ex-girlfriend.
In mid-November 2022, the trust’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Herman’s claims, arguing — in part — that the case should go nowhere because the trust is “not a legal entity” and, therefore, is not able to be sued.
“Plaintiff’s claims under the Residential Landlord Tenant Act fail as a matter of law because she is not a ‘tenant’ as defined by the Act,” the trust’s lawyers. “Moreover, Plaintiff has failed to name the proper party defendant because a Trust is not a ‘juristic person’ capable of suing or being sued. Rather, the trustee is the proper party. Finally, though ordinarily a party should be granted leave to amend, leave to amend need not be granted where amendment would be futile. Here, any contractual claim on the alleged oral tenancy agreement would be barred by the statute of frauds and, thus, amendment would indeed be futile. Accordingly, this Court should dismiss the Complaint with prejudice, award Defendant his attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 83.48, and provide such other relief as is deemed just and proper.
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The next month, the trust’s lawyers sought to move the case to secret arbitration “before the American Arbitration Association,” citing the NDA from August 2017.
“Specifically, at the outset of her relationship with Mr. Woods, Ms. Herman and Mr. Woods entered into a Non-Disclosure And Acknowledgement Agreement dated August 9, 2017 (the ‘Agreement’), a redacted copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit A to reflect a true and correct copy of the agreement to arbitrate. Among other things, the Agreement requires that ‘any and all disputes, claims or controversies . . . of any kind or nature whatsoever’ between Ms. Herman and Mr. Woods are to be resolved by confidential binding arbitration before the AAA. By suing the Trust rather than Mr. Woods, Ms. Herman seeks to evade her obligation to adjudicate her claims in a confidential arbitration and, instead, seeks to gain leverage by litigating her disputes with Mr. Woods in a public forum.”
On Jan. 19, 2023, the plaintiff filed her motion in opposition to the motion to compel arbitration. That’s the most recent event listed in the case docket for the initial lawsuit Herman filed.
On March 6, Herman separately sued Tiger Woods by name — also in Martin County — in an attempt to blow up the NDA, which her lawyers argued is both “invalid and enforceable.” Herman has asked Judge Elizabeth Metzger to issue a declaratory judgment finding as much.
“The Plaintiff believes that the Woods NDA is invalid and unenforceable. However, these issues are not legally certain, and the Plaintiff is in current doubt about her and the Defendant’s respective obligations and rights, if any, under the Woods NDA,” the filing said. “This uncertainty is acute and important. Because of the aggressive use of the Woods NDA against her by the Defendant and the trust under his control, the Plaintiff is unsure whether she may disclose, among other things, facts giving rise to various legal claims she believes she has. She is also currently unsure what other information about her own life she may discuss or with whom. There is therefore an active dispute between the Plaintiff and the Defendant for which the Plaintiff needs a clarifying declaration from the Court.”
In the complaint for a declaratory judgment, which you can read in full, Herman’s lawyer Benjamin Hodas noticeably cited as legal authorities two separate federal statutes protecting sexual assault and harassment survivors from being silenced: the Speak Out Act and the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021.
The Speak Out Act was enacted by Congress with the understanding that “Sexual harassment in the workplace forces many women to leave their occupation or industry, or pass up opportunities for advancement” and that “it is essential that victims and survivors have the freedom to report and publicly disclose their abuse.”
Importantly, Herman is described in court documents as a former employee of Woods, arguing that there was both a personal and professional aspect of the years-long relationship.
“The Plaintiff had a long relationship with the Defendant, both professionally and personally. During the course of the Plaintiffs employment for him, the Defendant caused the Woods NDA to be executed,” the complaint said.
The Speak Out Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law as recently as Dec. 7, 2022, says under the bill’s “findings” section that “Nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions in agreements between employers and current, former, and prospective employees, and independent contractors, and between providers of goods and services and consumers, can perpetuate illegal conduct by silencing those who are survivors of illegal sexual harassment and assault or illegal retaliation, or have knowledge of such conduct, while shielding perpetrators and enabling them to continue their abuse.”
It further says that “Prohibiting nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses will empower survivors to come forward, hold perpetrators accountable for abuse, improve transparency around illegal conduct, enable the pursuit of justice, and make workplaces safer and more productive for everyone.”
The Ending Forced Arbitration Act is similarly aimed to prevent sexual harassment and assault accusers from having their claims adjudicated in a secret arbitration, stating that “no predispute arbitration agreement or predispute joint-action waiver shall be valid or enforceable with respect to a case which is filed under Federal, Tribal, or State law and relates to the sexual assault dispute or the sexual harassment dispute.” The statute says it’s up to a judge to decide whether the federal statute applies and whether or not the NDA is enforceable — “irrespective of whether the agreement purports to delegate such determinations to an arbitrator.”
The court docket indicates a summons was issued to Woods on March 7, giving his lawyers 20 calendar days to respond.
Law&Crime reached out to attorneys of record in this matter for both Woods and Herman. Neither party immediately responded to the request for comment.
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