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Tiger Woods’ lawyers try to stop ex-girlfriend’s lawsuit


Lawyers for golf superstar Tiger Woods are expected to argue at a court hearing on Tuesday that his ex-girlfriend’s lawsuit against him should be dropped because she signed a non-disclosure agreement demanding that any disagreements between them be settled privately by an arbitrator.

Erica Herman, 39, is suing Woods to get out of the deal, saying she was a victim of his sexual harassment. She also filed a separate $30 million illegal eviction lawsuit against the trust that owns his $54 million mansion in Florida.

Herman, who ran Woods’ Palm Beach County restaurant before and during the early years of their romantic relationship, says the non-disclosure agreement is unenforceable under a new federal law that says such contracts could become void if sexual abuse or harassment occurred. Her attorney, Benjamin Hodas, claims Woods’s alleged threat to fire her if she doesn’t sign the contract was harassment.

“A boss imposing different terms of employment on his employee because of their sexual relationship is sexual harassment,” Hodas said.

Woods’ attorney, JB Murray, denies that the 47-year-old golfer ever sexually assaulted or harassed Herman. It is not known if Woods will attend the hearing before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger, the first in what could become a protracted court case.

In the Herman v. Woods lawsuit, she wants Metzger to void the non-disclosure agreement or at least give her advice on what to say publicly. For example, can she discuss events that happened before their agreement or after their breakup? What about information she learned about Woods from others? She also argues that the contract only covers her working relationship with Woods, not their personal affairs.

In her lawsuit against the trust for illegal eviction, she bases her $30 million claim on how much it would cost to rent a property like Woods’s beachfront mansion north of Palm Beach for six years of residence that was allegedly her promised by the golfer and then denied .

When Hodas filed her lawsuit against the trust in October, he ticked a box on a standardized form saying there was no sexual abuse. In Herman’s March lawsuit against Woods, Hodas checked the box and said there is abuse. Hodas has not explained the apparent discrepancy.

Prior to dating, Woods hired Herman in 2014 to help develop and operate the golfer’s sports bar and restaurant The Woods in nearby Jupiter — but they disagree on when their romantic relationship and cohabitation began.

Herman says in her court filings that their romantic relationship began in 2015 and that in late 2016 she moved into Woods’ nearly 30,000-square-foot (2,800-square-meter) mansion in the posh Hobe Sound community. She says Woods verbally promised in 2017 that she could live there for at least another 11 years.

Woods says in his court documents that their romantic relationship began in 2017, shortly before she moved in with him in August — around the time the non-disclosure agreement was signed. In March 2017, Woods had placed the mansion in the Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead Trust, an entity he created that has only himself and his two children as beneficiaries. Forbes magazine estimates Woods’ net worth at $1.1 billion.

Herman says Woods pressured her to quit her job as manager of his restaurant in 2020 because he wanted her to spend more time looking after him and his kids.

Herman says Woods evicted her through “cheating.” She says Woods told her they were going on a weekend trip to the Bahamas, so she packed a small bag and he drove her to the airport, where they parked near a private jet.

But instead of getting on board, Woods told Herman to talk to his lawyer and left, she says.

“Out of the blue,” the lawyer told her the relationship was over and she was being evicted, she says. She says she refused to sign another non-disclosure agreement that the lawyer tried to force on her.

When Woods’ lawyers returned her personal belongings, they withheld $40,000 in cash, “with gross and defamatory allegations” about how she obtained it, she claims.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.