Tiger Woods’ legal battle against former girlfriend escalates

Erica Herman accusing the golf superstar of beginning their sexual relationship when she was his employee and threatening to fire her if she didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement she now wants voided.

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Tiger Woods stands near then-girlfriend Erica Herman last year in Ireland.

Tiger Woods stands near then-girlfriend Erica Herman last year in Ireland.

Peter Morrison/AP

A $30 million legal battle between Tiger Woods and his ex-girlfriend has escalated, with Erica Herman accusing the golf superstar of beginning their sexual relationship when she was his employee and threatening to fire her if she didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement she now wants voided. Herman, in court documents filed late Friday, also accused Woods of having his lawyer break up with her at an airport in October after falsely telling her they were going on a weekend trip. The lawyer then evicted her from Woods’ $54 million mansion north of Palm Beach.

The documents were filed in advance of a scheduled Tuesday hearing where Woods’ attorneys are expected to ask Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger to halt Herman’s lawsuit against their billionaire client. They say the former couple’s nondisclosure agreement requires all disputes be settled privately by an arbitrator, not in court.Herman, who managed Woods’ Palm Beach County restaurant before and during the first years of their romantic relationship, argues that the nondisclosure agreement is unenforceable under a new federal law that says such contracts can be voided when sexual abuse or sexual harassment occurred. Her attorney, Benjamin Hodas, contends that Woods’ alleged threat to fire her if she didn’t sign the contract was harassment.

“A boss imposing different work conditions on his employee because of their sexual relationship is sexual harassment,” Hodas said.Herman, 39, is separately suing the trust that owns Woods’ mansion for $30 million, saying he verbally promised in 2017 that she could live there for at least 11 years, but kicked her out after five.

Woods’ attorney, J.B. Murray, denies that the 47-year-old golfer ever sexually assaulted or harassed Herman, calling her accusations in court documents, “utterly meritless.”Neither Hodas nor Murray responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

It is unknown if Woods will attend Tuesday’s hearing.In Herman’s lawsuit against Woods, she wants Judge Metzger to either void the nondisclosure agreement or at least give her guidance about what she can 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 is also arguing that the contract covers only her work relationship with Woods, not their personal matters.

In her unlawful eviction lawsuit against the trust, she is basing her $30 million claim on how much it would cost to rent a property like Woods’ mansion for the six years of residence she was allegedly denied.When Hodas filed her lawsuit against the trust in October, he checked a box on a standardized form saying the case did not involve sexual abuse. In Herman’s March lawsuit against Woods, Hodas checked the box saying that case does involve abuse. Hodas has not explained the apparent discrepancy.

Before they dated, Woods hired Herman in 2014 to help develop and then operate the golfer’s The Woods sports bar and restaurant in nearby Jupiter — but they do not agree 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 ritzy Hobe Sound community.

Woods, in his court documents, says their romantic relationship began in 2017, shortly before she moved in with him that August — about the time the nondisclosure agreement was signed. In March 2017, Woods had placed the mansion into 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.They were first seen publicly as a couple at the Presidents Cup in late September 2017, and Herman had been a steady presence at the larger tournaments and events, such as the 2019 Masters, his last win. She was also with Woods at the White House in 2019 when then-President Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Herman says Woods pressured her to quit her job managing his restaurant in 2020, saying he wanted her to spend more time taking care of him and his children.Herman says Woods evicted her through “trickery.” 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 plane.

But instead of boarding, 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 that she was being evicted, she says. She says she refused to sign another nondisclosure agreement the lawyer tried to force upon her.

When Woods’ lawyers returned her personal belongings, they kept $40,000 in cash, “making scurrilous and defamatory allegations” about how she obtained it, she alleges.Woods and his former wife, Elin Nordegren, divorced in 2010, some nine months after he was caught in a series of extramarital affairs that cost him blue-chip corporate sponsors and tarnished an image that had been largely impeccable.

Since then, he has had a series of injuries and surgeries, including fusion surgery on his lower back in 2017 and shattered bones in his right leg from a February 2021 crash in Los Angeles when he drove his SUV off a coastal road while driving about 85 mph (137 kph).Woods made the cut at the recent Masters but withdrew during the third round because of foot pain. He underwent ankle surgery last month, and it is unknown when he will compete next.

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