Erica Herman, the former girlfriend of professional golfer Tiger Woods, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Woods and his trust, Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead Trust, in March 2022. The lawsuit aims to nullify a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that Herman claimed Woods forced her to sign. The lawsuit raised eyebrows as it cited the Speak Out Act, which prevents the enforceability of an NDA agreed upon before a dispute involving sexual assault or harassment.
Now, in a new filing, Herman provides some needed context to her previous lawsuit. She claims that Woods pursued a sexual relationship with her while she was an employee at his Jupiter, Florida, restaurant in 2016, then went to questionable lengths to coerce her to sign an NDA. Benjamin Hodas, Herman’s attorney, detailed in the suit that “Tiger Woods, the internationally renowned athlete and one of the most powerful figures in global sports, decided to pursue a sexual relationship with his employee, then–according to him–forced her to sign an NDA about it or else be fired from her job.”
Hodas further explained that “When he became disgruntled with their sexual relationship, he tricked her into leaving her home, locked her out, took her cash, pets, and personal possessions, and tried to strong-arm her into signing a different NDA. Now, he wants to deny her access to the courts and put this case into secret arbitration, based on a highly redacted document that he claims is a contract between them.”
According to the new filing, Woods allegedly told Herman to pack for a weekend trip to the Bahamas. However, when Woods dropped her off at the airport, his lawyer was there to meet her and allegedly told her that she would no longer have access to the home they shared since 2017 and that she would not see her partner again. “Then, Mr. Woods’s California lawyer, out of the blue, told her that she was not going anywhere, would never see Mr. Woods again, had been locked out of the house, and could not return,” Hodas explained in the filing. “She would not even be able to see the children or her pets again.”
Herman is not only seeking to lift the NDA but also $30 million in damages, citing the home’s value. However, attorneys for Woods claim that she is simply using the Speak Out Act as a means to make their legal battle of public interest and to evade the binds of the NDA. Woods claims they didn’t have an agreement about the home they shared, and when Herman filed the first suit against him, she checked the box for “NO” when asked to denote if the case involved allegations of sexual abuse.
This latest development has brought to light the issues around non-disclosure agreements, particularly in cases of sexual assault or harassment. NDAs have long been used to protect the privacy of parties involved in legal disputes, but critics argue that they can also be used to silence victims and prevent them from speaking out about abuse. The Speak Out Act, which has been passed in several US states, aims to prevent the misuse of NDAs in cases of sexual assault or harassment, as in Herman’s case against Woods.