On Wednesday, a motion by Tiger Woods to compel arbitration in his legal dispute with former girlfriend, Erica Herman, was granted by Martin County (Fla.) Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger. The judge’s order will dispatch the controversy from the public forum of a court proceeding to private and confidential arbitration.
Herman, who also worked for Woods, has filed two lawsuits—one against the golf legend and the other against a trust Woods controls. The lawsuit against Woods concerns whether a nondisclosure agreement the two signed in 2017 is enforceable; in the case against the trust, Herman seeks at least $30 million in damages over her expulsion from the $45.8 million mansion in Hobe Sound, Fla., where she and Woods recently lived.
Herman has alleged Woods pressured her into signing the NDA and engaged in what she calls “sexual harassment” by allegedly “imposing different work conditions on [her] because of their sexual relationship.”
Woods denies any wrongdoing and insists none of her arguments can proceed in court. The NDA requires that “any and all disputes, claims or controversies … of any kind or nature whatsoever” must be resolved by “confidential binding arbitration.”
In an 11-page ruling, Judge Metzger agreed with Woods on the NDA. She stressed “arbitration agreements are strongly favored as a matter of public policy and will be enforced whenever possible.” Metzger added that judges must first turn to the language of an NDA to ascertain the parties’ intent before attempting to reconstruct what the parties might have been thinking. Here the language unambiguously covered “any and all disputes.”
Metzger also noted that while federal law requires a judge to deny arbitration when there are claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment, Herman has “only made vague and threadbare references to behaviors” that she construes as harassment. Metzger also found Herman failed to “provide factual specificity” regarding the alleged harassment.
Herman’s case against Woods is closed. As of this writing, her lawsuit against the trust (over which Metzger is also presiding) has not been closed. Attorneys for Woods insist it too should be sent to arbitration since it fundamentally involves a dispute between Herman and Woods as contemplated by their NDA.