A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that a dispute over the right to live in a home between golf star Tiger Woods and his ex-girlfriend must be resolved through arbitration under a non-disclosure agreement between the two. bottom.
The ruling paved the way for the spectacle to be handled privately. It was a win for Woods. Woods’ attorneys argued that due to a confidentiality agreement between Woods and his ex-girlfriend Erica Herman, it was widely expected that disputes would be handled privately through arbitration rather than the court system.
Harman’s attorneys questioned the validity of the agreement, in part because they believed some of Woods’ conduct amounted to sexual harassment. Under a relatively new federal law, nondisclosure agreements related to sexual harassment are declared void, allowing the issue to be heard in court.
However, in Wednesday’s ruling, Florida Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth A. Metzger granted Woods’ request to stay Harman’s claims and force arbitration, calling the claims “incredibly grantable.” I got it,” he said.
Herman’s attorneys argued that Woods did not “certify” the NDA, but the judge denied that Herrmann had her signature on the document and that the NDA called for disputes to be resolved through confidential arbitration. pointed out that it did not.
Harman, who was involved in the development of the Woods restaurant in Florida, also had the opportunity to “provide factual concreteness to any allegations relating to sexual assault or sexual harassment,” according to the case on May 9. The judge who held the hearing wrote: in a decision. “But she didn’t.”
The ruling will keep the controversy out of the public eye unless the appeal is successful, but lawyers for Herrmann and Woods have used court documents in the months leading up to the hearing. and exchanged sensational claims and contempt.
Herman testified that she worked for Mr. Woods’ business interest group in 2014 and became romantically involved with him in 2015. By the end of 2016, she had moved into Woods’ home, she said in court filings.
About six years later, in October 2022, their relationship fell apart. Herman said she and Woods were told they would be taking a short trip to the Bahamas on her private plane, and they headed to the airport together.
“However, instead of getting on the plane, Mr. Woods told Mr. Herman to speak to an attorney, and Mr. Woods walked away,” Herman’s attorney wrote in a court filing. “Then, Mr. Woods’ California attorney suddenly told her that she was not going anywhere, that she would never see Mr. Woods again, that she was locked out of her home and could never return.”
According to Herman, she and Woods were on an 11-year “verbal lease,” with about five years remaining at the time of the split. In her filing last fall, Herman’s attorneys estimated she had suffered more than $30 million in damages.
But Woods’ attorneys argued that post-separation repercussions, including the issue of access to Herman’s home on a wealthy enclave north of West Palm Beach, should be handled in arbitration. They cited the same three-page agreement dated Aug. 9, 2017, in which prosecutors announced that a plea deal had been reached in a case that began with Woods on DUI charges.
Judge Metzger’s immediate legal question was not whether Harman’s interpretation of the Woods lease was correct, but whether her court was the proper forum to consider the issue.
Herman’s attorneys have relied on largely unexamined federal law on NDAs to bolster their efforts to bring disputes to Florida courts, and the agreement ties into their personal and professional relationship with Herman. Alleged Woods sexually harassed him.
Herman’s lawyer wrote, “It is sexual harassment when a boss imposes different working conditions on an employee because of a sexual relationship.” They said that beyond the employer-employee relationship, an attempt by a trust established by Woods to evict Herman from the house the couple shared was also sexual harassment. Because “the landlord made Ms. Herman available to her housing on the condition that she have a sexual relationship,” with a co-tenant. ”
In their own filing, Woods’ attorneys described Herman as “wanting to publicly pursue dubious claims in court rather than honor her promise to arbitrate disputes in confidential arbitration proceedings.” , a nervous ex-girlfriend.”
They also denied that she was a “victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse” and warned the court “not to allow her.” Mr. Herman asked not to discharge his duty to arbitrate the dispute with Mr. Woods because of her implausible allegations of sexual harassment. Arbitration entanglements aside, the trust said in a separate filing that it believes the housing contract does not comply with certain Florida laws, citing the length of the oral lease agreement.
Woods has played in two tournaments this year, most recently at the Masters Tournament in April. He withdrew in the middle of the third round, had ankle surgery In less than two weeks. He has not announced when he will return to his already severely restricted competitive schedule after suffering a serious leg injury in a car accident in February 2021.
Mike Ives Contributed to the report.