Associated Press3 minutes of reading
A Florida judge ruled late Wednesday that Tiger Woods’ ex-girlfriend must abide by a nondisclosure agreement she allegedly signed and settle her lawsuit seeking millions from the golf superstar through a private jury behind closed doors.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger, in an 11-page opinion, rejected Erika Herman’s bid to void the 2017 contract, saying Woods had sexually harassed her and calling Herman’s allegations “vague and incoherent.”
“Herman had the opportunity to provide a factual description of any claim of sexual assault or sexual harassment, however, he failed to do so,” Metzger wrote.
Metzger also said evidence shows a non-disclosure agreement was negotiated between Herman and Woods in 2017, which his attorney Benjamin Hodas now questions whether he actually signed it.
At a May 9 hearing, Hodas admitted that Herman had signed a contract, but said he did not remember Woods’ attorneys ever presenting one in court.
Metzger said that if Hermann had unequivocally refused to sign the contract, he would have ordered an investigation into the issue. But as Herman was not sure whether he had signed or not, that was a question for the arbitrator to decide.
Neither Hodas nor Woods’ attorney, JB Murray, immediately responded to emails seeking comment late Wednesday. It is unknown if Hodas will appeal.
Herman, 39, is suing Woods, 47, and the trust that owns his $54 million Florida mansion. Forbes magazine estimates Woods’ net worth at $1.1 billion.
Herman, who managed a Woods Palm Beach County restaurant before and during the first years of their relationship, argues that the non-disclosure agreement is unenforceable under a new federal law that says such agreements can be voided when sexual abuse or harassment occurs.
She alleges in court documents that Woods threatened to fire her if she did not sign a nondisclosure agreement. Hodas argued it was a form of harassment, treating an employee differently than others because they had sex.
But the allegation of sexual harassment was not mentioned during last week’s hearing. Metzger told Hodas that he needed more information about what happened to consider it. Hodas said he could not publicly provide more information for fear of violating the non-disclosure agreement if it is finally upheld.
Murray has called the allegation “completely without merit”.
In Herman’s lawsuit against Woods, he asked Metzer to void the non-disclosure agreement or at least provide guidance on what he could say publicly. He also argued that the contract covered only his working relationship with Woods, not their personal matters.
In his wrongful-eviction lawsuit against the foundation, he based his $30 million claim on how much it would cost to rent a property, such as Woods’ beachfront mansion north of Palm Beach, for the six-year residence the golfer allegedly promised. Then he refused.
Before they started dating, Woods hired Herman in 2014 and later helped build the golfer’s The Woods Sports Bar and Restaurant in nearby Jupiter.
Herman says in her court filings that their romance began in 2015 and that in late 2016 she moved into Woods’ nearly 30,000-square-foot mansion in the ritzy Hope Sound community. In 2017, Woods verbally promised he could live there for another 11 years, he says. Herman says Woods pressured her to quit her job in 2020 so she could spend more time taking care of him and her children.
Woods says in her court documents that their romance began in 2017 and that she had moved in with him in August, around the time the controversial non-disclosure agreement was signed. In March 2017, Woods added the mansion to the Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead Trust, an entity he created that has only himself and his two children as beneficiaries.